Union to fight possible closing
Workers have refused a pay cut, saying that they are tired of making concessions.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
NILES -- A union intends to challenge the proposed closing of a Niles aluminum casting plant.
The 77 hourly workers at Ohio Valley Aluminum decided Thursday against taking a 20-percent pay cut demanded by company officials, who have said they will close the plant for an extended period and lay off all workers if labor costs aren't reduced.
Kirk Davies, a staff representative with the United Steelworkers of America, said he will file a grievance under the union's labor contract if operations are shut down. The company has work for the plant, so it should not be able to send that production to other plants just to avoid paying its workers, he said.
The Kentucky-based company said earlier this week that it has acquired its third casting plant, so the Niles plant is being used for "excess capacity." The company said all of the needs of its customers can be met with the other two plants, which are in Kentucky and Indiana.
A company spokeswoman could not be reached Friday. Ohio Valley had given the workers until Tuesday to agree to its pay cut demand.
Davies said the workers were unanimous in their feelings against the pay cut. Since Ohio Valley acquired the plant two years ago from Indalex Aluminum Solutions, workers have given back vacation days, accepted a freezing of pensions, started paying for their medical insurance and given up supplemental unemployment benefits, he said.
"The workers believe, and I think they are right, that this won't end," he said.
The workers are in the middle of a three-year contract that called for a total of 9 percent in wage increases.
Davies said the union received some financial documents from the company but not enough to be able to judge its financial health.
Ohio Valley said labor costs at the plant are higher than its other three plants. It also operates an aluminum extrusion plant in Indiana. The average pay in Niles is 15.80 an hour, plus incentives.
The company said the plant faces great difficulties because it has "antiquated" equipment. Its smelters are inefficient in consuming energy, making products expensive, the company said.
With lower labor costs, Ohio Valley said it would be able to invest in the plant to make it more competitive.
The plant melts scrap to make aluminum billets and logs that are sent to aluminum extruders.