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Workers Accept Ormet Contract

By Staff | Jun 15, 2011

Ormet Corp.’s potlines will continue pumping out aluminum, thanks to union workers’ vote June 8 to accept a new five-year labor contract.

Members of United Steelworkers Local 5724 approved the deal by a vote of 517-184, with the remainder of the 871 members not voting. The vote ended a week of speculation that workers might walk off the job after they rejected the company’s previous contract offer.

A statement from the union notes, “Our members will realize a pay increase each year of this five-year agreement and our members will continue to receive excellent health care benefits. We have improved the standard of living for all of Ormet’s USW-represented hourly employees.”

John Puskar, staff representative for the USW, said union members took issue with the company’s proposed drug and pension plans in explaining why they refused last week’s offer, though he declined to be more specific.

Ormet shipped 13,860 more tons of aluminum during the first three months of this year than last, while gross profits were $5.5 million more than during the same period in 2010.

“The future looks pretty bright at this point because the entire aluminum market is very strong right now,” Puskar said.

In 2004, Ormet had filed for bankruptcy protection, but it emerged from bankruptcy in 2005 in the midst of an 18-month walkout by union employees. The company closed and sold its former rolling mill shortly thereafter.

However, Puskar said union workers have “a lot better” relationship with the current management team, led by Chief Executive Officer Mike Tanchuk, than with the administration of 2004-05.

As union workers move forward to work with the company, Ormet said it will sell its marine terminal and additional acreage located in Burnside, La. The buyer is Trafigura Beheer BV, based in the Netherlands.

As part of the transaction, Trafigura will also provide terminal services to Ormet’s nearby alumina refinery, the most important of which will be offloading bauxite and loading alumina.

Ormet is gaining about $28 million in gross proceeds from the sale, $10 million of which will go toward paying “down the company’s long term debt at par.” “This is a step in improving Ormet’s competitiveness in a worldwide market,” Tanchuk said.