"I would say we made some slight progress, but we still have a long way to go," USW Local 1016-3 unit president James Wells told Fastmarkets following a negotiating session on Wednesday September 16. 

NLMK did not respond to Fastmarkets' request for comment about the status of talks.

Wells presented NLMK with a new proposal on Wednesday that would allow the more than 400 hourly workers at the facility to keep their current health insurance plan and also allow new hires to either enroll in the old plan or join a new high-deductible plan, he said.

"They accepted part of the package, as far as health insurance," Wells said.

The company agreed to the first part of the union's proposal - current workers can keep the current plan - but rejected the second part of the proposal that would have given new hires the option to enroll in the current plan, according to Wells.

The union, however, in Wednesday's talks insisted that the updated labor agreement give new workers the option of enrolling in either health-care plan.

Thus, current workers being allowed to keep their benefits remains an isolated agreement that hinges on the two sides coming to terms on what health-care benefits new hires will have, in addition to other unresolved issues, Wells said. 

"Right now, we're working up a day to sit down and negotiate," he added.

NLMK USA's operations include a slab re-rolling facility in Farrell, along with a flat-rolled electric-arc furnace mill in Portage, Indiana.

The strike will enter its fifth week on September 19.

The union's more than 400 members walked out on August 22 after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on a new labor contract due to proposed changes in worker health-care benefits that the union claimed were unfair and would increase members' costs.

Fastmarkets' daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US was calculated at $28.06 per hundredweight ($561.20 per short ton) on September 16, up by 19% from $23.57 per cwt on August 21 - the day before the strike commenced.