October 1, 2014

Elyria
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Union, Republic reach tentative labor deal

LORAIN — Following weeks of negotiations culminating with a marathon 36-hour bargaining session, the United Steelworkers union and Republic Engineered Products reached a tentative agreement on a new contract Thursday afternoon.The deal was reached about 4:30 p.m., allowing plant managers and union officials representing employees at all five of Republic’s U.S. plants to finally get some rest.

An exhausted Don Golden, president of United Steel-workers Local 1104, said he could not discuss specifics about the tentative agreement until it is officially approved, but he did offer that he was happy negotiations were over.

“I’ve been up for nearly 40 hours, and I’m getting ready to shut my computer off and go to sleep,” he said after e-mailing a letter to his fellow union members in Lorain from Pittsburgh, where the negotiations took place.

The tentative contract means both parties narrowly avoided a strike. Union members had scheduled a walkout to occur Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., which is when the current contract was set to expire, if talks broke down.

A strike was never called because both parties were trying to come to an agreement, working well past the deadline and into Thursday morning.

Asked how he stayed awake the whole time, Golden said caffeine made all the difference.

“They’ve got some pretty strong coffee here,” he said.

Golden’s letter to Local 1104 stated that the agreement includes a significant wage increase, the addition of the industry standard 10th holiday and a layoff income fund paid for by management that will provide health care and a $250-per-week payment to laid-off workers.

The tentative agreement was made between management and unions from Republic’s plants in Lorain, Massillon, Canton, Gary, Ind., and Lackawanna, N.Y.

Presidents from all five union chapters will now review the contract over the next 24 hours and, if they approve of it, will schedule a series of meetings for members to ratify it. Employees will continue to work under the current contract until the new contract is approved.

During negotiations, the unions and management had been unable to reach common ground on several key issues, including wages, which Golden said are well below industry standard.

The unions agreed to take a lower wage when the current contract was negotiated five years ago, but that was when Republic was struggling financially. The company is making multimillion dollar profits now, Golden said.

Representatives from Republic could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.