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Asarco sees another legal setback in copper bonus dispute: USW

Louisivllle, Kentucky — US copper producer Asarco has suffered another legal setback in its near five-year quest to avoid paying in excess of $10 million in copper price bonuses to hundreds of unionized workers in the US Southwest, the United Steelworkers union said Friday.

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The Grupo Mexico subsidiary has filed numerous court appeals -- all unsuccessful -- since an arbitrator ruled in December 2014 the bonuses should be paid under terms of the company's then-labor agreement with the USW and several other unions who represent some 2,200 employees at Asarco operations in Arizona and Texas.

Asarco has argued the arbitrator improperly amended a collective bargaining agreement between the company and unions in contravention of a "no-add" provision in the contract.

On Thursday, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected the company's latest request to rehear the case, the USW said.

That means Asarco has only one legal recourse remaining: it can petition the US Supreme Court to hear its appeal.

Company officials could not be reached for comment Friday as to whether such an application would be made. The nation's highest court typically accepts about 2% of appeal requests.

The USW again called on Asarco to pay the bonuses, which have accrued interest over the years.

"Although management has delayed and postponed paying the millions of dollars it owes for years, we are committed to fighting for justice for these workers and their families," said USW District 12 director Robert LaVenture. "Asarco's debts will only continue to grow until they ae settled once and for all, and time is running out." -- Bob Matyi, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Anthony Poole, newsdesk@spglobal.com