Alcoa Inc. and the United Steelworkers reached a tentative agreement late Thursday on a new five-year labor contract.
For officials of Local 105, which represents 1,700 employees at Alcoa Davenport Works in Riverdale, the news from Pittsburgh, where talks were being held, was a relief.
"That's what we hoped for all along," said Mike Nicholas, financial secretary for Local 105, said Thursday night. "Now we can all go home and get some sleep. I expected to be here until 1 or 2 in the morning."
Nicholas said he and his team will meet with Local 105 members today to discuss the terms of the agreement. A ratification vote also will be scheduled.
John Riches, Alcoa Davenport Works spokesman, said the agreement is "positive for our employees and competitive for our business."
"It's going to be business as usual," he said. "Employees should continue to come to work as planned."
News of the tentative agreement came about 45 minutes before the 11:59 p.m. CDT expiration of the old four-year contract.
"Our employees are the key to our success in driving productivity gains and growth, and this new contract ensures labor stability as we continue the transformation of Alcoa," Bob Wilt, president of Alcoa Global Primary Products and chair of the company's Employee Relations Council said in a news release.
"We look forward to a positive outcome following the vote by local unions."
A major sticking point in the negotiations was Alcoa’s proposal for two-tier healthcare and pension plans, which union representatives said would be unfair to new, younger members.
Nicholas said the union did not support the healthcare plan proposed by Alcoa, which he said had higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.
Alcoa said it wanted a fair contract but needed to keep its labor and benefits costs at levels where the company could be competitive.
Davenport Works is the home of the world's largest aluminum rolling mill. A $300 million renovation project was completed earlier this year.
In all, 11 union locals representing 5,000 workers at 10 Alcoa plants will be covered by the new master agreement, Local 105 is the largest with 1,700 workers.
Thursday afternoon, the mood was positive at the Bettendorf union hall, where Local 105 members were working the telephones to confirm a picket duty roster in the event of a strike.
“It feels like we’re getting the support of a lot of members,” Nicholas said a day after the union unanimously approved a strike authorization vote.
He said volunteers, most of whom were under 35, “are part of our next generation.” They were calling members to confirm their picket duty times because if the union had a strike “we’d have to cover three gates at the plant 24/7.”
Union members also were phoning in to ask about work schedules after the midnight contract expiration. “They’re being told not to walk off the job,” Nicholas said, adding “there is a shutdown process we have to follow (for safety reasons).”
Negotiations opened with an April kick-off session, though actual contract talks did not begin until late April in Pittsburgh.
The new master agreement covers 5,000 employees at 10 plants and 11 locals, including 1,700 union members at Davenport Works. The other locals are at Alcoa units in Alcoa, Tenn.; Gum Springs, Ark.; Lafayette and Warrick, Ind.; two in Massena, N.Y.; Point Comfort and Rockdale, Texas; Wenatchee, Wash.; and Badin, N.C.