LISTER HILL — The local United Steelworkers union rejected a proposal from Wise Alloys for a new labor agreement Monday, sending both sides back to the negotiating table today.
Negotiators for the United Steelworkers Local 200 and Wise had reached a tentative agreement Friday, but the 419 members of the union turned it down Monday.
In a statement sent Monday night from Sandra Scarborough, senior vice president of corporate human resources for Wise Metals Group, company officials said they will continue negotiations, but added Wise also has a commitment to its customers.
“The company continues to be committed to working with the union’s bargaining committee to reach an agreement,” the statement read. “However, the company is also committed to our customers to deliver on all their expectations. We believe this can be achieved and desire to work with the union to make this happen.”
Ken Hunt, president of the local Steelworkers, did not comment on which issues are under dispute, but said he remained optimistic about negotiations.
“The membership voted down the contract overwhelmingly over many issues of the company’s last and final best offer,” Hunt said. “We will meet at 1 p.m. (today) with the company, and we feel we can get to an agreement our members and the company can live with.”
The current contract was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, but was extended to allow union members time to vote on the tentative agreement, which was reached in the early hours Friday morning.
The membership last week granted union negotiators the authority to strike if needed.
In October, Carpenters Local 1290 signed a five-year contract with Wise that includes a $1,500 early signing bonus and 2.25 percent general wage increases in 2013 and 2015. The Operating Engineers ratified a similar contract the previous week, with a $2,000 signing bonus.
Wes Oberholzer, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Wise, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the rejection.
“The offer compares favorably with the proposals that have been ratified earlier by our other two unions, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 320 and Carpenter Union,” Oberholzer said. “The current average hourly base wage for production workers at Wise Alloys is $22 per hour. When you factor in the cost of benefits, these jobs are worth in excess of $80,000 per year to the Shoals economy.”
The company’s corporate headquarters moved to the Shoals earlier this year. Wise Alloys is the nation’s third-largest producer of aluminum can stock for the beverage and food industries.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com