May 30, 2006

Alcoa contract talks, plans to bring in salaried scab labor, continue.

A QC Times report by Tory Brecht says that talks between Alcoa and the United Steelworkers union progressed smoothly over the weekend. But plans to use a public school parking lot so that scab workers would not have to cross picket lines to park their cars have put school officials in a tight spot.

"The good news is, we’re still talking," Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery said. "There’s lots of give and take on both sides. There is progress."

Skip McGill, president of United Steelworkers Local 105 that represents Quad-Cities Alcoa employees, said meetings stretching into Monday night were productive.
The contract includes 9,000 employees, including 1,600 hourly workers at Davenport Works, Riverdale, represented by Local 105, Bettendorf. The current contract expires Wednesday.

The four main issues in the new contract are health care benefits, a cap on retiree health care, a two-tier benefits system for new hires and contracting out. In addition, negotiators have local issues for all 15 plants involved in the talks.
In the event of a work stoppage, the company has been training salaried workers to fill the union jobs at the master contract locations. Alcoa also has been making plans to bring in other Alcoa workers to keep the plants operational.

Those plans also could include allowing temporary workers to park at Pleasant Valley High School rather than have them have to cross a picket line in their personal vehicles.

"It’s fair to say there have been inquiries, but there is not a current formal request," Pleasant Valley School District Superintendent Jim Spelhaug said. "We don’t have any interest in sticking our nose where it doesn’t belong, but we have a strong interest in doing anything we can to help the two parties facilitate an agreement."

Spelhaug pointed out that Local 105 has used the high school to hold informational meetings and ratification votes in the past.

"If the union wants to come and use our gym or theater, I don’t perceive that as us taking a side," he said. "And if the company has a request of some form, we’re certainly going to give them equal opportunity."

Spelhaug said the matter is touchy, in the wake of bad publicity St. Ambrose University officials received when they pitched a plan to house temporary workers in the college’s empty dormitories.

"One could argue that in the face of all this with St. Ambrose that maybe we ought to take the position of keeping everybody out," Spelhaug said. "But we have a history of working with the union and the company."

Officials predict that nothing will be settled until the very last minute.
"We’ve got a long way to go, and it probably isn’t going to be resolved until midnight on the 31st," McGill said.


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