UPDATE: Alcoa, union reach tentative agreement

Aluminum manufacturing giant Alcoa Inc. reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with its largest union Tuesday, avoiding a possible strike that would have affected thousands of workers.

Details of the four-year agreement between Alcoa and the Steelworkers Union were not immediately available. It still must be ratified by union members in Indiana and seven other states.

The current contract covers about 5,400 employees at 10 facilities in Lafayette and Newburgh, Ind., and in Texas, Arkansas, Washington, Tennessee, New York, Iowa, and North Carolina. Alcoa has about 59,000 employees in 31 countries. About 570 work in Lafayette.

"We have spent the last two weeks working through some tough issues, and feel that this tentative agreement creates a future for good paying jobs at these plants," Mick Wallis, president of Alcoa North American Rolled Products, said in a statement.

In an e-mailed statement, the union declined to discuss details until representatives meet with union members.

The contract was extended about half a day beyond its expiration at midnight Monday, as both sides continued to discuss terms.

When the negotiations began in mid-April, Alcoa identified three key issues it wanted to address: health care, wages and scheduling flexibility.

It proposed a change in health-care benefits and a compensation package for new employees that would offer the same wages but exclude retiree medical benefits and include fewer instances in which wage premiums would be paid.

Alcoa also wanted to make some operational practices more flexible, such as adjustments in work schedules and staffing levels.

Alcoa has seen improving market conditions after it was battered during the recession when demand dried up for aluminum. The company eliminated thousands of jobs, curbed production and sold businesses during the downturn.

Alcoa, based in Pittsburgh, expects to benefit this year from a rebound in global automotive production and has forecast a 10 percent increase in worldwide aluminum consumption.

The last time the steelworkers union went on strike against Alcoa was in 1986.


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