Aurora -- In an attempt to end a work stoppage at Rotek that is approaching 13 months, United Steelworkers Local 8565 offered "an unconditional return to work" in what union president Bill Hyslop called "a strategic move."
"This starts the meter running on back wages," Hyslop said.
Hyslop said if Rotek brings some of the union employees back to work, for every hour that they work Rotek could be liable for the difference between the salaries that union workers were previously earning and the lower salary rate implemented by Rotek.
A ruling on the back wages would be made by the National Labor Relations Board.
Rotek officials will not discuss the current negotiations publicly, said Kellie Harris, director of media and communications for ThyssenKrupp of North America, the parent firm of Rotek.
"We've responded to the union in writing with our perspective," she said Jan. 31. "Hopefully, we'll hear back from the union soon and get some momentum in our discussions.
"There is a formal process that is followed. Part of that is we responded to the union. We are trying to understand the exact details of the offer. We are truly hopeful that we can finally resolve the impasse in our negotiations."
About 130 union members who are still not working stopped picketing Jan. 25, according to Hyslop, and the two wooden shacks in front of the Route 43 facility have been vacant.
"WE HAVE to show good faith that we're not picketing," Hyslop said. "At this point, it isn't to our benefit to keep standing out there and not put any impact on them."
On Jan. 14, 2013, Rotek implemented the terms of its "last, best and final offer," according to Harris.
The union elected to set up pickets on Jan. 18, 2013.
Harris said in May, the union rejected a settlement offer, and Rotek began the process of hiring replacement workers after Rotek employees on the picket line did not return to their jobs.
"[Rotek officials] said they're OK with starting to bring some of us [union workers] back to work," Hyslop said, "but we don't know how many or when. The next step is finding out how many employees they want back."
Hyslop said the steelworkers union has filed numerous complaints in the last year with the NLRB, a neutral party, against Rotek.
Harris said Jan. 31 Rotek's ultimate objective is "to make sure we have a strong, stable work environment for all our employees.
"We continue to remain focused on our business and making a high quality product," she said. "From a negotiations perspective, our objective remains the same. We want to support all of our employees, no matter who they are. Ultimately, we want to resolve the negotiations."
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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC