NEW YORK, July 16 -- About 700 workers at Rio Tinto Alcan's RIO.<L (RIO.AX: Quote) Ravenswood, West Virginia aluminum rolling mill plant have agreed to a tentative two-year labor contract, the United Steelworkers union said on Friday.
Later, Alcan Rolled Products released a statement confirming agreement to a tentative labor deal that the Union will take to its membership for ratification.
The contract will be presented to union members at meetings next Wednesday. A secret ballot vote will be conducted at the plant gate next Thursday and Friday to ratify the deal.
The tentative contract includes improved wages and pensions and preserves the existing medical insurance, the union and company press releases said.
The two sides added the agreement establishes a labor and management committee that will work together on workplace improvement and includes the company's guarantee against layoffs related to reorganization and contracting out of work.
As in the past, however, when mill orders decline, layoffs will still be permitted.
Rio Tinto Alcan said the plant needs to become more efficient to be "financially sustainable."
"There are really only two choices: work together to make Alcan-Ravenswood a more competitive player in global aluminum markets or turn down the contract and face an uncertain financial future," the company said.
"There will be no further investment in the plant until a new contract has been ratified and process improvements are realized," it added. The expired collective bargaining agreement will be in effect during the ratification process and was extended until July 24 11 p.m. EDT, the aluminum producer said.
The Steelworkers had previously negotiated a contract that was rejected by its membership last week, prompting the union to issue a 72-hour strike notice on July 10.
Management agreed to return to the bargaining table and the union rescinded the strike notice, resulting in the pact that will be presented to union workers next week.
"This contract was only made possible with the solidarity of our membership as expressed by their willingness to go on strike if necessary to protect the jobs in this plant," said union local vice president Nathan Nelson.