Louisville, Kentucky — Century Aluminum has bused in dozens of temporary replacement workers to its 244,000 mt/year Hawesville smelter in western Kentucky as a week-old lockout continued Wednesday with no end in sight, a spokesman for Local 9423 of the United Steelworkers union said.
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"They've bused in replacement workers since the lockout started, and they're working in the plant," Jake Sapp, a union steward, said in an interview Wednesday. Sapp said he did not know how many people the Chicago-based company has brought in to help operate the potlines while some 560 union employees are locked out of the plant.
Since the lockout began May 12, Local 9423 members have been manning around the clock a picket line at the plant's entrance.
Century spokesman Kenny Barkley did not answer directly when asked if the company has brought in replacement works, but he said in an email that the smelter "continues to operate safely and at full production. The company has taken the necessary steps to enable uninterrupted operations and expects to continue at full production through the labor disruption."
Although Sapp said the union and company have not communicated since the lockout started, Barkley said Century remains "committed to the bargaining process and will continue to negotiate in good faith."
Barkley added that Century believes its original "last, best and final" April 25 contract offer "represents a good contract and remains on the table for ratification." Century says this final offer included pay increases of more than 14% over a five-year period, provided fixed costs for health insurance with lower out-of-pocket premiums, and contract language changes.
But the local unon rejected the company's proposals four times during the past month, often by a wide margin.
Health care and contract language have been major sticking points during negotiations that started more than two months ago. Sapp said the union has no plans to vote again on the final offer, which he described as "substandard."
Nevertheless, Sapp said he is "optimistic" that the union and company eventually will return to the bargaining table.