April 11, 2014
By Bob Matyi

USW local rejects Felman revised labor deal; effect on SiMn plant restart not known

The United Steelworkers union has rejected a modified labor contract with US silicomanganese producer Felman Production, but it was unclear on April 11 if the vote will affect the company's plans to restart its idled 105,000 mt/year plant in New Haven, West Virginia.

Roy Martin, vice president of USW Local 5171 at the plant, confirmed to Platts the tentative agreement was voted down on April 10. He did not release vote totals, but said the union planned to meet with the Florida-based company on April 11.

According to Felman spokesman John McKenna, the union and company plan to resume labor negotiations on April 17. McKenna said he did not immediately know if a failure to implement a revised labor deal with the USW would affect a possible plant restart. Nor did Martin. The plant has been idled since last July.

Felman has said the main obstacle blocking a restart of production at the plant was the absence of a new electricity supply arrangement with Appalachian Power, New Haven's longtime supplier and an American Electric Power subsidiary.

Last week, the West Virginia Public Service Commission authorized a special variable power rate discount of up to $9 million a year for Felman. The company had been seeking a rate cut of $9.5 million annually over 10 years.

The PSC also gave Felman until June 30 to enter into a contract with APCo.

Martin did not indicate why the more than 100 union workers at Felman failed to ratify the proposed contract changes. 

The union has said Felman proposed an 18-month extension with wage and language changes. The USW countered with a 12-month extension "and few language modifications," according to Denny Longwell, a USW staff representative.