WEIRTON, W.Va. — Union workers at former Severstal North America plants in the Ohio Valley are learning details of a proposed contract with RG Steel LLC, and some are worried.
After a meeting in Mingo Junction, Ohio, on Tuesday, some members of the United Steelworkers told the Weirton Daily Times they’re concerned about lack of detail on seniority rights and a provision for alternate work schedules. Although they’re used to overtime pay after eight hours, the contract would allow three 12-hour days or four 10-hour days.
RG, a subsidiary of the private equity firm Renco Group, completed the purchase of several Severstal facilities last month. It now owns the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel facilities that Severstal had purchased in the Ohio Valley, including Wheeling Corrugating in Wheeling, W.Va., and the Allenport facility in Allenport, Pa.
The new contract would also cover the former WCI Steel facility in Warren, Ohio, and the former Bethlehem Steel facility in Sparrows Point, Md. USW members are voting on the deal by mail.
Dave McCall, director of USW District 1, said the offer largely matches those that the union reached with other major steel companies in 2008, except it doesn’t include a $6,000 signing bonus.
It would include a $1 per hour raise, plus an annual increase of 4 percent on the contract anniversary through 2014. That matches what the USW negotiated with U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, McCall said.
New hires would start at 20 percent below the current base wage and would be raised to the standard rate over two years.
The contract would be retroactive to March 31, and health care benefits would remain unchanged.
McCall said he believes the Ohio Valley will be better off with the new owners.
“Severstal, from my perspective, lost focus about what they were doing and about the great advantage these assets have in terms of the overall business picture,” he said. “When we were in bargaining, over a two-year period, we had 23 different operating and business plans from these guys. They changed their business plans more often than they changed their underwear.”
RG Steel has said it will restart the blast furnace at Sparrows Point, putting some of the 1,000 laid-off employees there back to work. But the idled plant in Mingo Junction remains closed because of the economy.
A restart there, McCall said, depends solely on the recovery of the market.
“I think it’s just a matter of time,” he said, “before you start seeing fire in the valley again.”
Renco’s $1.2 billion deal with Russian-owned Severstal included repayment of $317 million in debt. It also included 50 percent ownership of Mountain State Carbon, a coke plant in Follansbee, W.Va., and Ohio Coatings in Ohio.