April 21, 2014
By Bob Matyi

 Employees at Felman ratify new deal at SiMn plant

Union employees at Felman Production's 105,000 mt/year silicomanganese plant in New Haven, West Virginia, have ratified a revised labor agreement, the United Steelworkers union and the company said on April 18.       


The move was a necessary step to restarting production at the facility, which has been idled since July 2013.      

Roy Martin, vice president of USW Local 5171, confirmed the ratification, but did not release vote totals. In an initial vote earlier this month, the membership rejected proposed revisions in areas that included contract length and language, as well as wages. Neither the union nor the company disclosed the new terms. The positive vote extends the existing collective bargaining agreement until June 2017.   

On April 3, the West Virginia Public Service Commission authorized most of a special electricity rate discount sought by the Florida-based company. Under the arrangement, the plant could receive a power rate discount of up to $9 million a year. Felman had requested a rate cut of $9.5 million annually over 10 years.  

"Felman says with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia ruling for a favorable power rate and changes in the CBA, Felman can restart production," Martin said.      

In a statement, Felman CEO Mordechai "Motti" Korf said the company was pleased with the vote, adding "this necessary development brings Felman another step closer to resuming operations and further strengthens the plant's long-term viability."           

Felman has indicated it could take several months to get the plant in full production.      

Some of the more than 100 hourly workers at the plant have been unemployed since June 2013, Martin said. "The company and union are looking forward to building a sustainable business in the tough [economic] conditions the American steel industry faces today," he said.  

Silicomanganese is used in steelmaking and foundry activities. The domestic market for silicomanganese is about 400,000 mt/year, meaning Felman's production in West Virginia had about 25% of the market. However, imports from Georgia, brought in by Felman's parent company Georgian American Alloys, used to supplement the imports, supplied another 25% of the US domestic market, according to market participants.