Cliffs Natural Resources Prepares for Possible Strike

By KBJR News 1

August 28, 2012 Updated Aug 28, 2012 at 8:46 PM CDT

Hibbing, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Cliffs Natural Resources is preparing for a possible strike at two of their mines on the Iron Range.

Contracts for steel workers at two of the mines Cliffs manages, Hibbing Taconite and United Taconite, expire at midnight Friday.

Every four years contracts for union workers at the mines expire and terms for the 1,090 union workers employed are up for negotiation.

"We're certainly hopeful that we'll come to a fair and equitable agreement," said Cliffs Natural Resources District Manager of Public Affairs, Sandy Karnowski.

Karnowski says that the company has a contingency plan in place in case the workers strike, which includes bringing in temporary workers to operate the mine in case of a strike.

"That plan does include to continue to operate beyond the contract expiration if a work stoppage is initiated by the steel workers union," said Karnowski.

Karnowski says the plan is similar to the ones put in place during negotiations in 2004 and 2008, when an agreement was reached between the company and the union before the deadline.

Representatives from United Steelworkers, the union representing the workers, were unavailable for comment on the negotiations as they continue in Pittsburgh. However a post on the website of the Chisholm branch of United Steelworkers says that Cliffs Natural Resources is "attempting to run out the negotiations clock without offering anything of value to the employees."

Karnowski says she's hopeful that that clock doesn't run out and an agreement is reached.

"We're certainly hopeful, we'd like to come to an agreement," Karnowski said.

Cliffs Natural Resources also operates Northshore Mining. However, they say that that mine won't be affected by these contract negotiations because its workers aren't union employees.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.