- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Union workers with expired contracts at the United States’ only platinum and palladium mines will reconsider tonight the same contract they rejected in June.

Stillwater Mining Co. workers are scheduled to vote by 9 p.m. Monday on a contract that would keep the pay and benefits of about 900 miners mostly consistent with the four-year contract that ended in early June.

United Steelworkers’ negotiating committee and Stillwater CEO Michael “Mick” McMullen support it, but workers at the mine in Nye and smelter and the refinery complex in Columbus have said the contract could reduce their take-home pay. It would change production incentives that could raise or lower what miners make depending on their work and metals prices.

Stillwater spokeswoman Jennifer Lawson declined to comment on the labor negotiations, and union representative Steve Gentry did not return calls.

An answering machine reached Monday at the United Steelworkers Local 11-0001 office in Columbus urged Stillwater employees to go to work despite their expired contracts.

“We are still in negotiations process,” the voice message said. “As a result, continue to show up for your regular, scheduled shifts and check the website for the most current and up-to-date information.”

No additional information is provided on the organization’s public website.

Stillwater workers are bitter over pay raises executives received amid recent cuts, including the layoff of 11 workers two weeks ago.

McMullen received an 8 percent raise in 2015 that bumped his base salary to $712,000. Lawson said McMullen’s salary is still 31 percent less than the previous CEO, Francis McAllister, who retired in 2013 during a corporate shake-up led by Stillwater chairman and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

McMullen has said he’s slashing costs to keep Stillwater competitive with platinum and palladium mines in South Africa and Russia as precious metal prices decline.

Montana’s largest mining company, Stillwater is headquartered in Billings and employs about 1,600 people. Platinum and palladium are used in catalytic converters, jewelry, dentistry and other industries.

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