RAVENSWOOD - Union employees at Constellium Rolled Products in Ravenswood are scheduled to vote this week on a contract offer from the company.
Informational meetings for employees have been scheduled for Wednesday at the United Steelworkers Local 5668 Union Hall in Ravenswood to discuss the proposal. The meetings are scheduled at 7:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., according to a posting by USW Local 5668 President Jason Miller on the union's website.
A strike vote will be held at these meetings, the post said.
The union and company are in negotiations on a new labor contract for around 700 employees. The old contract expired at midnight on July 15 but had be extended until midnight July 22.
''Constellium Rolled Products has issued to USW Local 5668 Negotiating Committee their Last, Best, Final Contract Offer,'' another posting on the union's website said. ''The extended contract set to expire midnight, July 22, 2012 is being extended on a day to day basis with a 72 hour notice right to strike by the union.
''All Constellium hourly employees are to continue to report to work on their regular scheduled shifts.''
The vote on whether to accept the new proposal is scheduled for Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at the Constellium main gate, a posting from Miller said.
The union members, in a website posting, were asking for a fair contract and for the company not to change the insurance benefits. A message left at Miller's office Monday seeking further comment on this was not returned.
The city of Ravenswood is strongly encouraging both labor and management to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, Ravenswood Mayor Michael Ihle said.
''The City of Ravenswood understands how critical it is that both sides agree to a deal fair to both sides,'' Ihle said. ''The contract must fairly compensate employees for their work and the success they've contributed to Constellium through their hard work; however, it must also allow Constellium to be competitive so that labor costs don't hurt their ability to provide jobs for our people.''
Company officials said the company's offer provides an average net gain of more than $15,000 per employee over the five-year term of a new contract. The offer includes wage increases, one-time wage adjustments, a ratification bonus, and other economic enhancements.
In exchange, employees would begin in 2014 making modest weekly contributions for health benefits and sharing in the cost of health care, the company said. Under the proposal, weekly contributions would be about half of the national average.
"For a facility that has struggled and suffered significant financial losses in recent years, we believe this is a very reasonable offer," said Kyle Lorentzen, CEO, in a press release from the company. "This proposal provides our employees real economic benefit, while ensuring that they still have quality, affordable health benefits for themselves and their families. Employees are not being asked to 'give up' anything at the end of the day."
Despite rising health care costs generally, the company plans to continue providing health care benefits for Ravenswood's 2,400 retirees and their dependents. The company is, however, looking at changes to retiree medical benefits as part of its cost control efforts and will keep its retirees informed of any potential changes, officials said.
"As the largest employer in Jackson County with almost 1,000 employees and with more than 2,400 retirees and their dependents relying on us for continued health care and pension benefits we recognize the need for economic stability and the importance of a sustainable future," Lorentzen said.
For the past few years, a new leadership team with the company embarked on an aggressive turnaround plan to make the Ravenswood aluminum facility sustainable, even in a fiercely competitive global environment, officials said. This has included investment in new equipment as well as a growth plan for the company and cost reductions.
''Addressing health care costs and putting the Ravenswood facility on more equal footing with its competitors is an essential part of the turnaround plan,'' Lorentzen said. ''We look forward to continuing to work toward an agreement that will provide a sustainable platform for high paying manufacturing jobs for years to come.''