U.S. Steel workers declare strike alert over pay rise

Collective negotiations with the Košice-based steelworks have failed several times since their beginning in January 2019.

U.S. Steel Košice workers have announced a strike alert, demanding a pay rise. U.S. Steel Košice workers have announced a strike alert, demanding a pay rise. (Source: TASR)

After three months of negotiations over a pay rise that led to no agreement, employees of U.S. Steel Košice declared a strike alert on April 8, the OZ KOVO trade unions organisation informed on its website.

Trade unionists and the representatives of the steelmaker have met nine times since January 2019 to negotiate the sixth addendum to the collective agreement, which ends next year. However, they failed to make a deal.

“Collective negotiations are still underway but in a different form,” said U.S. Steel Košice's (USSK) spokesperson Ján Bača, as reported by the regional Korzár daily. “No agreement has yet been reached.”

Read also:U.S. Steel Košice will invest $130 million in Košice

Both parties will thus have to find an intermediary, who will lead further negotiations and recommend a solution.

European work, European wage

USSK and trade unionists have differing opinions on several points of the addendum. Yet, the most pressing issue is the growth of this year's tariff wages and the percentage increase of the variable wage component.

In January 2019, OZ KOVO demanded an increase in tariff wages of €120 for each employee, which USSK promptly rejected. Trade unionists are now demanding that tariff wages rise by €70. In contrast, USSK has offered a pay rise of €20, as reported by Korzár.

“We belong to the European Union, and we contribute to the excellent performance of USSK,” claimed Juraj Varga, a head of OZ KOVO at USSK, as quoted in the press release. “We deserve European wages for European work.”

Higher input costs

The average monthly wage at USSK in 2018 was €1,876, including the variable wage component, which is an increase of 7.6 percent.

“This was 67.4 percent higher than the average wage in the industry,” Bača argued, as quoted by Korzár.

The company wants to share its success with its employees, according to Bača. Yet, the steelmaker has argued that its production inputs such as surcharges for night and weekend work, minimum wage rise, and holiday vouchers have got more expensive.

Read also:U.S. Steel Košice’s profit boosted last year

In addition, the global situation in the steel market is not very good, USSK claimed. However, the trade unions say that USSK's profit amounted to $359 million last year, as reported by Korzár.

USSK employs 12,000 people. However, it is rumoured that the company will reduce the number of its workers.

“We must pay attention to the competition, and work productivity is closely related to this,” said Bača, as quoted by Korzár. “In this area, we lag behind the best firms in the industry.”

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