Century Aluminum locked out 560 workers represented by the United Steel Workers in Hawesville, Kentucky after voting on Monday to reject the company’s latest “last, best and final” contract proposal.
The union’s latest contract rejection, followed a prior (third) contract rejection that included a 15 percent wage increase over five years, according to Reuters, .
At issue in the negotiations are health insurance and wages. Century said last week that Hawesville employees’ contribution rates would be below average for employees at other manufacturing companies.
Lockouts are lawful by an employer, according to the National Labor Relations Board, “sometimes even before impasse is reached in the negotiations, if it does so to further its position in bargaining.”
In addition, “lockouts are lawful that are intended to prevent any unusual losses or safety hazards that would be caused by an anticipated ‘quickie’ strike.”
According to a press release, the union’s District 8 Director Billy Thompson “called on the company to abandon its strategy to bully union workers into accepting management’s demands and negotiate in good faith for a fair contract at the smelter.”
“Century must be made accountable for its decision to hold our jobs, families and community hostage over issues that should be resolved through collective bargaining,” Thompson said. “Management needs to end this lockout immediately, return these workers to their jobs and resolve our differences at the table.”
In Texas, a lockout involving the Steelworkers has been going on since last October and affecting nearly 450 union workers at Sherwin Alumina.
Like Century Aluminum’s lockout, Sherwin Aluminum locked out its union workforce after the Steelworkers voted to reject the company’s final offer.
Although the union filed unfair labor practices against Sherwin Alumina, the NLRB refused to issue a complaint. The union is vowing to appeal the NLRB’s decision to Washington.
Century Aluminum’s largest shareholder, Glencore International Plc, also owns Sherwin Alumina, according to the Steelworkers’ press release.