WARREN TOWNSHIP - United Steelworkers Local 3523 at Thomas Steel Strip said Monday that members have ratified a three-year extension, until March 31, 2017, that leaders hope will help bring capital investment to the steel mill.
The current agreement doesn't expire until March 31, 2014, but union President Tom Jones said workers approached management about extending the contract "with the idea of making capital improvements at our plant more attractive to our parent company, and also to provide some security and peace of mind to our customers."
The local, which has 200 members, approved the pact by 72.7 percent, Jones said.
"The bottom line is that the extension puts some money in our pockets, keeps our health care as is until at least 2017, and will give close to 50 more hourly employees the opportunity to retire on their terms without going through another full blown contract negotiation," he added.
William Boyd, president and chief executive officer of Tata Steel Plating-North America, said the contract reflects the company's "commitment to partner with our USW team members. I am very pleased that we can move forward at our Warren facility as a team focused on delivering value to our customers and stakeholders."
New union and company leaders forged a "new beginning" after a strike 3 1/2 years ago, Jones said.
"We've come a long way since then," he said. "We have capable people on both sides of the fence."
Jones said no commitment was made for capital investment. He said the existing equipment is "OK but needs some upgrades. Our newest piece of production equipment is more than 12 years old."
Global conglomerate Tata took over Thomas Steel's then-parent, Corus Steel, in March 2007.
Thomas Steel is a leader in making steel for consumer battery and sporting ammunition casings, along with auto parts.