Union Attributes Kaiser Losses to Impact of Lockout

“The United Steelworkers of America, is calling Kaiser Aluminum’s third quarter loss proof that the company’s lockout is continuing to hurt its operating and financial performance.The labor union represents locked-out workers at Kaiser Aluminum facilities in Tacoma, the Spokane area, and elsewhere nationwide. The labor dispute is now in its second year.The union was responding to Kaiser’s report that it suffered a net loss of $39.2 million during the third quarter of 1999. “The company’s claims that the labor dispute is having no impact and that its plants are operating at record levels, are clearly not borne out by the numbers,” said David Foster, USWA District 11 director, and the union’s chief negotiator with Kaiser. “The $12.1 million operating loss for the third quarter of 1999 shows clearly that these plants are neither operating well, nor is the dispute clearly behind it.“The third quarter 1999 results bring Kaiser Aluminum’s total losses in the four quarters since the labor dispute began to $132 million, compared with profits of $53.7 million during the previous four quarters,” Foster said.The union claimed Kaiser’s revenue was off nearly 4 percent in the third quarter compared to the same period in 1998. The USWA also stated shipments of flat-rolled aluminum were off 4.7 percent and revenue on that product was down 15.3 percent.The company has laid the blame for its losses on low aluminum prices and other factors instead of the lockout.Foster, pointed toward the recently improved performance of other aluminum producers in comparison to Kaiser. He said Alcoa reported a 19 percent increase in earnings in the third quarter on stable revenues and shipments, and Reynolds Metals reported a gain of 4.5 percent in aluminum shipments and a 5.6 percent increase in aluminum revenue.“Other producers are making money in this market,” Foster said. “If Kaiser is running as well as it claims, why isn’t it?”The union said it has received reports of high turnover among replacement workers. It also charged inexperienced replacement workers are suffering a high rate of serious workplace accidents. The union stated according to data from OSHA, injuries at Kaiser severe enough to force injured workers to lose work increased 65 percent in the first three-quarters of the dispute, compared to an average for the same period in 1998.An explosion at a Kaiser alumina refinery in Gramercy, Louisiana in July injured about 20 employees. The incident is still under investigation.”