- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Officials overseeing construction of a $1.8 billion fertilizer plant in southeast Iowa have defended their hiring practices amid criticism from labor leaders.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority said in a Tuesday release that Iowa Fertilizer President Shawn Rana met with labor leaders Friday.

Rana argued the company has facilitated the hiring of many local construction workers at the plant site in Wever. He also noted a main on-site employer is an Iowa-based union contractor.

“By the completion of the project, we anticipate that 78 percent of the project will have been completed by union workers,” he said in a statement.

Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham organized the meeting between Iowa Fertilizer officials and labor leaders, many of whom represent union workers, following a Capitol meeting earlier this month where union organizers claimed plant officials were trying to hire workers outside of the region following layoffs in April. Some workers have been hired back to work under different employers on site.

Durham told labor leaders during the first meeting that she would be limited in what she could do because construction officials were not breaking any rules from their contract.

Southeast Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council President Ryan Drew said he spoke with officials Friday about the benefits of hiring even more local union workers. He said his group looks forward “to continuing an open dialogue” with Iowa Fertilizer, according to the release.

The state of Iowa issued $100 million in state tax breaks for construction of the plant.


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