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Ryan Bakken, Forum Communications, Published May 22 2012

Crystal union willing to make concessions on seniority

CROOKSTON, Minn. - A Bakery Workers union official is saying that locked-out American Crystal Sugar workers will bring a counter-offer to the June 8 negotiations with the company.

The counter offer will include “a new set of proposals to address their concerns since the last time we met,” Roger Delage, president of Local 2676 in Crookston, said today.

Delage emphasized that it wasn’t a new package with mass concessions. He said that he had been besieged by phone calls Tuesday from union workers upset about a television report quoting a negotiator as saying it was an offer the company couldn’t refuse.

“I’ve been catching crap from a lot of people about that,” Delage said. “What he really said is that they can’t refuse the offer unless they want to continue losing more money.”

He wouldn’t provide details about any position changes, only saying that the company’s “main issue is seniority, so we addressed that. I can’t give any more details because someone will get mad at me for negotiating in the media.”

However, he said any change is a significant move. “At this point, everything that is still left on the contract is a significant move,” Delage said. “Any change means we’ll have to give something else up that we’ve always had.”

The two sides have not met since February.

ACS officials won’t know details of union’s concessions until the June 8 meeting with a mediator. Crystal Vice President Brian Ingulsrud said on May 3 that “our final offer is our final offer.”

Reacting to the latest news, Insulsrud said Tuesday that the company will wait to see what the union offers.

The lockout began Aug. 1 when union members voted against management’s proposed contract. About 1,300 workers are affected.