BOSTON, June 1 -- Alcoa Inc., the largest U.S. aluminum producer, and the United Steelworkers union agreed to extend the deadline for contract talks by 11 hours.
The union has until noon Eastern time today to consider the company's "last, best and final offer," Kevin Lowery, a spokesman for New York-based Alcoa, said in an e-mail. The union will make a statement after 9 a.m. local time, spokesman Gerald Dickey said. They offered no details on the proposal.
Alcoa wants to lower expenses after reporting combined net losses of $1.23 billion in 2008 and 2009 as the global recession cut demand for the metal used in cars, jets and beverage cans. An initial proposal offered to put union workers on the health plan offered to 14,000 salaried and hourly employees in the U.S., which Alcoa said was 45 percent cheaper than the union plan.
"Alcoa has been pretty steadfast in wanting to reduce costs and the union has been steadfast in wanting to keep the benefits they are used to," Charles Bradford, a partner at New York-based consulting firm Affiliated Research Group LLC, said before the announcement. "Still, nobody wins a strike when you get down to it."
The union has said the initial proposal would have tripled health plan costs for some families. Plants covered by the labor accord account for 1.29 million metric tons of Alcoa's aluminum smelting capacity, or 27 percent of the 4.81-million-ton total, a company filing showed.
Plants in Tennessee, Texas, New York and Washington, with a combined capacity of about 700,000 tons, are already idle because of market conditions, the company has said.
The labor agreement also covers Alcoa's only U.S. refinery for alumina, the primary raw material for making aluminum. The Point Comfort, Texas, plant has a consolidated capacity of 2.31 million tons, or 13 percent of Alcoa's 18.1- million-ton total. The plant was running at about 65 percent capacity at the end of 2009, according to a filing.
Alcoa fell 1.5 percent to $11.64 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading May 28. U.S. markets were closed yesterday for the Memorial Day holiday.