Asarco - Workers Reach Deal

Asarco and the United Steelworkers Union have finally come to a new labor agreement. 

The proposal is subject to approval by the union's bargaining committee and then must be ratified by the union membership.

Once that happens, the agreement must be approved by the bankruptcy court, which has jurisdiction over the company's chapter 11 proceeding.

The two sides are bargaining to replace a one-year contract approved in November 2005, an agreement forged while the U.S. mining company was in bankruptcy and workers had been out on the picket lines for four months.

Asarco, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in August 2005 amid huge environmental cleanup and asbestos claims, remains in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Corpus Christi, Texas. The company has asked for a four-month extension from a January deadline to file its reorganization plan.

Union representatives have said they are seeking a wage hike for workers at its five facilities in Arizona and in Amarillo as part of a three-year contract. They would not be specific.

"We believe we deserve a raise with the price of copper being at an all-time high," says union negotiator Terry Bonds.

Another key to the deal is considered to be a successorship clause that will retain the union as the bargaining agent and force a labor contract to be worked out if the company is sold, officials said. That was a key sticking point during last year's negotiations.

When the agreement becomes final, the new pay and benefit levels will be retroactive to January first, 2007.