Steelworkers, Ispat appear far apart

February 09, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Labor negotiations crucial to reopening the closed rod mill at the Sparrows Point steel mill are coming to a head with the two sides apparently far apart on key issues.

Officials of the United Steelworkers of America were scheduled to meet in Pittsburgh Thursday to consider a labor contract that would cover workers at Bethlehem Steel's closed bar, rod and wire division, which includes the Sparrows Point rod mill. The mill had a work force of 350 when it closed Aug. 14.

The contract offer is being made by Ispat Mexicana S.A. de C.V., part of the Ispat Group of Calcutta, India, which signed a letter of intent in November to buy the Bethlehem division.

The outcome of that meeting and any further negotiations would determine whether the division will reopen. In addition to the Sparrows Point rod mill, the division includes a steel mill in Johnstown, Pa., and a bar mill in Lackawanna, N.Y. The division had a work force of 2,000.

The negotiations became public this week when the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat published a story that detailed the proposed contract. In response, the union issued a press release yesterday charging that Ispat had broken an agreement not to release such information and saying the press reports were "grossly misleading and just plain inaccurate in several important respects."

Yesterday's statement, which quoted David Wilson, director of the union's District 8, headquartered in Baltimore, also said the offer did not represent improved wages and benefits, as the newspaper had reported.

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