ATI, Steelworkers unable to find agreement on health care as strike drags on

·3 min read

Jun. 11—Allegheny Technologies Inc. and the United Steelworkers continue to levy accusations at each other as they remain unable to agree on the key issue of health benefits and a strike drags on.

Negotiators for ATI and the USW met Wednesday with the help of a federal mediator. No further talks were taking place Thursday, according to both sides.

Thursday marked the 72nd day of the strike, which began March 30.

ATI says an agreement is not possible without addressing health care.

"We need an appropriate cost structure for the long-term success of our business, which must include addressing the cost of health care," the company said Thursday in an update to employees.

ATI says its approach has been to accept the union's plan design and implement "modest" premiums beginning in 2024.

"The USW has adamantly opposed our proposal related to premiums, assuring us that their plan design will result in significant savings," ATI said, adding the company is "less convinced of the savings related to their plan design."

ATI said it gave the union an opportunity to prove its plan will control costs as it claims, but that the union "completely gutted the structure by removing any reasonable expectation of cost control over the life of the agreement."

"It was just another bait and switch," the company said. "Health care costs remain a significant issue, and we need our employees to join us in addressing them."

In its own update to workers, the USW said ATI management has told them they are no longer insisting on employee health care premiums.

The union said management presented a cost containment plan that included an annual cap on health care, and included a proposal tied to the union's offer to create a joint health care committee to contain costs.

"The USW has engaged ATI during many hours of bargaining to offer health care cost containment mechanisms and other approaches to settle the dispute," the union's update said.

The union said it accepted the premise of annual caps and was willing to explore the idea.

But the union said its counter "exposed the 'tricks and traps' of the company's proposal, which would have allowed it to be able to unilaterally modify the union health care plan design and/or implement health care premiums even higher than previously proposed."

"Despite our committee's efforts to help control health care costs, they have now rejected our proposal claiming without logical explanation that our proposal did nothing to help control costs, even though it was based on the caps they proposed," the union said.

ATI says its April 26 offer remains on the table.

The four-year proposal includes a $2,500 lump sum payment in the first year, 3% wage increases in the second through fourth years, and health care premiums beginning in 2024.

Meanwhile, the USW told workers its legal team is working to secure unemployment compensation benefits for members. It said members should keep filing weekly claims.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, or via Twitter .