Steelworkers overwhelmingly approved a new five-year contract Tuesday with Timken Co. that will ensure a $225 million investment at the Faircrest Steel Plant.
Steelworkers who were optimistic about approval of a new contract with Timken Co. on Tuesday weren’t disappointed, as the offer was approved by an almost 6-to-1 vote margin.
The second try was the overwhelming charm for Steelworkers Local 1123 and Timken as union members accepted the contract offer by a 1,520-260 vote.
After the announcement, the company said it plans to move ahead with a $225 million investment at the Faircrest Steel Plant.
An additional round of negotiations proved fruitful after workers rejected a first offer by a 917-608 vote in January.
Joe Hoagland, president of Steelworkers Local 1123, announced the vote total, but refused further comment. The union, which represents about 2,200 hourly workers, accepted a five-year contract offer that carries wage increases totaling about 11 percent, a signing bonus and increases in health care and pension benefits.
“This is a good day for our customers around the world, for our company and for the local community,” Salvatore J. Miraglia, Jr., president of Timken’s steel business, said in a prepared statement. “We’ve received great support for our steel expansion from state and local officials and suppliers, and now our employees have put the last element in place to make this project a go.”
“We are seeing growing demand for Timken specialty steel to support the most demanding energy and industrial applications,” said Miraglia. “This is the right time to make the kind of investment that will improve our operating performance while also expanding our capacity and size range for these products.”
Most union members agreed that workers aren’t getting everything they want, but all those interviewed by The Repository said they believed the second offer would be approved. Most didn’t want to reveal how they voted.
“I voted for it,” said David Seguin of Canton Township, who has worked for the company for 37 years. “It’s a pretty good deal. They made some pretty good changes” during negotiations after the first contract proposal was rejected in January, he said. “You’re not going to get everything you want. I think it will pass.”
A number of Steelworkers said the day after the January vote that a two-tier wage and benefit system, initiated by the contract signed in 2009, was the problem. Steelworkers wanted the lower tier eliminated.
That second tier means those hired since 2009 come in on a lower wage scale for the first 36 months. Seguin said 36 months was reduced to 24 months in the latest offer.
“I don’t think we’re going to get anything better,” he said. “We need this to make us stronger. There’s a limit to what you can get.”
Terry Ketterman of Hartville has worked for Timken Co. for almost 15 years. “I think it probably will” be approved, he said. “I think they (Timken) made some movements” after the first proposal. “To some people, they didn’t make enough. You’re not going to get everything you want.” Passage of the contract will provide stability for younger workers, he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Ron Davis of Wooster has been at the company for 32 years. “I voted for it,” he said. “I voted no on the last one. The company kind of threatened they would take their money. I want them to invest here.
“You never get everything you want. You’ve got to make some compromises somewhere.”
John Maher of Dover has been at Timken for 23 years. He voted for the offer Tuesday, but he didn’t vote the first time around. “I thought it would pass last time. I think a lot of ‘yes’ votes stayed home last time.
“We’ve got to get that caster built. I think it was now or never.”
The new contract runs through September 2017, replacing one that would have expired in September 2013. The company initiated early contract talks, and negotiations began in September after Timken announced it was looking to upgrade Faircrest. The investment was contingent on the company’s being sure there would be no strike before upgrades were completed sometime in 2014.
The company opened the door to another round of talks two days after the union rejected the first proposal, and the union accepted the offer. The company made it clear that the second round of talks would be final, and if a second offer was rejected, it would look elsewhere to make the investment.
Timken said the investment at Faircrest will improve productivity, expand its product range and increase capacity to serve growing demand for Timken specialty alloy steel bars.
A new ladle refiner and large-bloom continuous caster are central to the productivity gains from the investment, the company statement said. The new equipment also is expected to increase Faircrest’s capacity by 25 percent and enable the production of a broader range of large-diameter bars.
“We have a highly skilled, capable workforce committed to continuous improvement,” Thomas D. Moline, vice president of steel manufacturing said in the statement. “Our team understands what it takes to make custom-melted, high-quality alloy bars and tubes that meet our customers’ exacting metallurgical requirements.
“This investment, which is the largest since opening the plant in 1985, builds on those skills to improve our productivity, while giving us the ability to offer even more to the customers who rely on us for their own success.”