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Health benefits key issue in Alcoa contract negotiations

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MASSENA — Health insurance benefits for about 6,100 Alcoa employees nationwide, including those at both Massena plants, is one issue on the table as a contract between Alcoa and the United Steelworkers union is set to expire in two days.

Local 420-A President Robert A. Smith has been in Pittsburgh since April 27 for negotiations. Negotiations began April 28 and are set to continue through Thursday.

“We are hopeful that Alcoa will craft a deal that is fair to its employees and representative of all the hard work that we do,” he said.

He said a lot of work remains before a deal is finalized, but talks are progressing.

“Alcoa currently offers master employees a robust benefits plan with employee contributions that are significantly lower than the national average,” a news release said. “The company offered to keep the same master health care plan for current employees, but with adjustments to specific plan provisions. Future employee contribution rates will also be a subject of discussion in these negotiations.”

The company has posted daily updates on its website at the end of talks each day.

According to Sunday’s update, negotiations were centered on the employee prescription drug plan, as well as “various items” related to the structure and administration of the health care plan. On Saturday both sides reviewed a proposal for benefits and some of the contract language.

An update posted May 7 said that Alcoa was confident a deal would be reached before the contract expired.

“The company continues to believe a cost-effective, competitive agreement can be used,” it said.

Reached by telephone Monday, Mr. Smith declined to elaborate on the nature of the talks.

“We need a fair deal that is reflective of all that we do,” he said.

Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr said the company employs approximately 620 members of the United Steelworkers in Massena. The West plant and recently idled East plant had a total of about 825 union employees. Ten people still work at Alcoa East.

Ms. Marr said she was optimistic that a deal would be reached soon.

Robert G. Wilt, Alcoa’s president of global primary products and chairman of the Employee Relations Council, said in April that he was confident a new deal would be reached.

“I believe we all have the same objective in mind: Tso reach an agreement that is fair to our employees and positions our business for future success,” he said. “Alcoa and the United Steelworkers have a proud history of working together, resolving problems and finding common ground, and I am confident that we will be successful in doing so again.”

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