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Crown Metals Packaging Canada and the United Steelworkers of America are headed for a showdown over a company proposal to curtail prescription drug coverage for future retirees, the union announced yesterday. An attempt to reach an early settlement broke down when the company, a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Crown Holdings Inc., asked for relief on its drug-plan costs, surprising union negotiators who thought the company wanted a quick deal to ensure continuity of supply to its customers, Lawrence Hay, a staff representative for the union, said in an interview. Company representatives were not immediately available for comment. The multinational firm, which produces metal packaging, including beer cans, for the consumer goods industry, employs 1,000 members of the Steelworkers union in plants across Canada. Mr. Hay said the company proposes to replace drug plan coverage with an annual cap of $400 for retirees' drug claims. It is a debate that is playing out at bargaining tables in a number of industries as employers grapple with the rising costs of drug plans. Mr. Hay said the Canadian employees of Crown Metal Packaging have signed "a declaration of solidarity" to resist any cuts to those benefits when bargaining resumes. The current contracts are set to expire early next year. CCK (NYSE) rose 23 cents (U.S.) to $11.

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