April 24, 2014

Elyria
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REP, union continue negotiations

LORAIN — Representatives from Steelworkers Local 1104 worked past a strike deadline late Wednesday to try to negotiate a new contract with Republic Engineered Products.

As of press time, negotiations were still under way in Pittsburgh, union officials said.

But during a brief break from the negotiating table late Wednesday, union President Don Golden seemed optimistic that a strike could be avoided.

“We’re a little closer. It’s not a done deal, but we’re still talking, so that’s a good sign,” Golden said.

Unions from Republic’s five American plants are all negotiating with management in Pittsburgh and threatened to strike at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, which is when the current employee contract expires, if talks broke down. In addition to the East 28th Street plant in Lorain, Republic has plants in Massillon, Canton, Gary, Ind., and Lackawanna, N.Y.

The two parties had been trying to hammer out a contract for weeks but have not gotten any closer on several key parts, Golden said.

One of those issues is wages, which Golden said are about $3 an hour below industry standard, because the union agreed to take a lower wage when it negotiated the last contract five years ago when Republic was struggling financially. The company is making multimillion-dollar profits now, Golden said, and should be paying its workers better.

The union also wants a commitment from Republic to reinvest in itself so the company stays competitive in the industry, and would like management to assist people who are laid off by continuing to pay their health care and continuing to pay into workers’ pension funds if the layoff is for a short period.

Golden has said a strike will be the last resort and the union will consider extending the current contract deadline if management shows it’s willing to work things out.

Representatives from Republic in Lorain could not be reached for comment.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.