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ATI contract proposal introduces health care contributions, profit-sharing

| Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, 9:29 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Members of United Steelworkers Union Local 1196 wait to enter Grandview Upper Elementary School in Tarentum to meet about a tentative contract with Allegheny Technologies Inc. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
USW Local 1196 member Jim Swarts of Washington Township holds up as a sign as he and others wait to enter Grandview Upper Elementary School in Tarentum to meet about a tentative contract with Allegheny Technologies Inc. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Members of United Steelworkers Union Local 1196 wait to enter Grandview Upper Elementary School in Tarentum to meet about a tentative contract with Allegheny Technologies Inc. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
United Steelworkers Local 1196 members wait to enter Grandview Upper Elementary School in Tarentum to meet about a tentative contract with Allegheny Technologies Inc. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
United Steelworkers Local 1196 members wait to enter Grandview Upper Elementary School in Tarentum to meet about a tentative contract with Allegheny Technologies Inc. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.

Allegheny Technologies Inc.'s union employees would pay more for health care but get a share of company profits under a new contract proposal.

The 2,200 employees of ATI's Flat-Rolled Products Division at 12 plants in six states, including about 1,500 at six in Pennsylvania, heard details of the proposal Saturday.

If it is ratified by the United Steelworkers union members Tuesday, the proposal would end a six-month lockout.

“It doesn't solve all our problems, but it's definitely a victory for the union considering what the company wanted to do to us,” said Walt Hill of Freeport, a member of USW Local 1196 in Brackenridge and the contract coordinator for all of the ATI plants.

ATI spokesman Dan Greenfield said the company would have no comment pending the ratification vote.

The key points of the proposed four-year deal are:

• A $3,500 signing bonus paid over the life of the contract with $1,500 paid immediately, no payment in 2017, then $1,000 payments in 2018 and 2019. Workers who retired or found other employment during the lockout will receive a pro-rated share of the first-year bonus payment.

• Elimination of 100 percent medical coverage paid by the company. Establishment of a co-insurance plan in which the company pays 90 percent of the cost and employees pay 10 percent after meeting deductibles. The deductibles of $300 for an individual and $600 for a family, and out-of-pocket expenses of $1,500 for an individual and $3,000 for a family, are the same as those under the old contract. Dental and vision benefits would remain the same.

• Establishment of a profit-sharing plan, something the company successfully fought to eliminate in a previous contract. The plan would be based on quarterly profit instead of annual profit. It would start with a profit threshold of $12.5 million, of which the union would receive 2 percent, or $250,000, to be split among the USW members. The amount would climb to 3 percent or $750,000 for $25 million in profit; 4 percent or $1.5 million for $37.5 million; and a maximum of 6.5 percent for $56.25 million, with a cap of $3.75 million.

• The $1.50 per-hour-worked quarterly bonus under the old contract has been eliminated. Instead, the steelworkers will have $1 added to their base pay immediately. The company will pay 50 cents-per-hour worked into the Voluntary Employee Benefits Account, which is used to pay for retirees' medical benefits.

• The union agreed to allow the use of outside contractors by the company with a provision that states: “The company does not intend for this proposal to result in any active employee losing their employment.”

Hill and Local 1196 President Fran Arabia said the reality is that contractors will be needed to some degree to get the plants back up to normal production because some workers retired or found other jobs during the lockout.

“The problem is right now, we lost too many people; we are decimated,” Hill said. “We couldn't start the (Harrison plant) tomorrow.”

• Employees of the recently idled Gilpin (Bagdad) and Midland plants, about 420 people, will get jobs at other ATI plants.

• The company agreed to continue monitoring the market for grain-oriented electrical steel, which was produced at the Gilpin and Harrison plants, to determine whether conditions justify a restart of those operations.

• New hires who join the company after the date of contract ratification will not have a defined benefits pension plan but will have 401(k) retirement plans to which ATI will contribute $2.65 for every hour worked.

Assuming the majority of the steelworkers ratify the contract, it faces another hurdle: approval by the National Labor Relations Board.

The NLRB filed a complaint against ATI after finding the company guilty of unfair labor practices regarding the lockout and pre-lockout actions. As a condition of the agreement, ATI wants the complaint and all grievances filed by the union withdrawn, though the NLRB still could decide to move forward.

“It's better than what we expected, I think,” said Chris Santella, a 38-year ATI steelworker from Brackenridge. “I'm glad the union held out as long as they did.”

“Overall, it's not a bad contract,” said Kirby DeCroo of Buffalo Township. “It's (better) than what they were trying to jam down our throats.”

Although he thought the bonus payment was low, DeCroo said he would vote for the proposal.

“It's better than what I expected to get,” said Jim Boe of New Kensington.

He said he was going to “weigh the pros and cons” before deciding how he will vote.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. Reach him at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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