April 14, 2014
By Bob Matyi

USW to hold "re-vote" on Felman SiMn plant agreement 

The United Steelworkers union has scheduled a "re-vote" April 17 on proposed changes to an existing labor agreement rejected last week by rank-and-file employees at Felman Production's idled 105,000 mt/year silicomanganese plant in New Haven, West Virginia, a union official said April 14.

Roy Martin, vice president of USW Local 5171 at the plant, said in an interview that the union decided to hold a second vote because there were some "complications with our local."

He declined to elaborate except to say: "All I can say is the voting procedure wasn't handled properly."

Attempts to reach officials of Florida-based Felman for comment were unsuccessful. The company has declined to comment on whether a rejection of the proposed contract revisions could affect its plans to restart the plant, which has been shuttered since July.

As of now, Martin said the USW's current labor deal with Felman is set to expire in June 2016. "But if this vote is in favor of this memorandum, it will extend it one year and expire June of 2017," he said.

The union has said Felman proposed an 18-month extension with wage and language changes, while the USW countered with a 12-month extension and few language modifications.

A potentially crucial obstacle to the plant's restart was lifted April 3, when the West Virginia Public Service Commission authorized Appalachian Power, an American Electric Power subsidiary and the plant's longtime power provider, to enter into a special variable electricity rate agreement with Felman.

Under the arrangement, the plant could receive a power rate discount of up to $9 million per year. The company had requested a rate cut of $9.5 million annually over 10 years.

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

The domestic market for silicomanganese is about 400,000 mt/year, meaning Felman represents about 25% of the market.