Steel talks with Ispat fall apart Sparrows Pt. mill placed in jeopardy

February 19, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Talks between the United Steelworkers of America and the potential buyer of Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s bar, rod and wire division broke down yesterday, jeopardizing the reopening of the rod mill at Sparrows Point.

The talks between the union and Ispat Mexicana S.A. de C.V. in Pittsburgh ended after the Indian-owned steel company rejected union counterproposal, according to the Steelworkers.

"We've gone as far as we could possibly go," said Andrew V. Palm, director of USWA District 15. "We're willing to listen to anything reasonable the company has to say. The ball is in their court."

In an effort to revive the talks, both sides were invited by Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey to meet in his offices last evening.

After more than five hours, the meeting ended with the two sides agreeing to resume discussions at 1 p.m. today.

However, said Steelworkers spokesman Frank F. Romano, "We are doubtful, based on Ispat's previous reluctance to discuss our counterproposal, that it will lead to any new direction in the discussion."

Ispat Mexicana, part of the Ispat Group of Calcutta, India, signed a letter of intent to buy Bethlehem's closed bar, rod and wire division, which had 2,000 workers in operations at Sparrows Point, Johnstown, Pa., and Lackawanna, N.Y. The Sparrows Point rod mill, which had 350 workers, has been closed since Aug. 14.

The company offered the union a five-year contract with wages ranging from $8.50 to $13.50 an hour in the first year and from $9.25 to $14.25 in the fifth year. The offer included a signing bonus of $500.

Steelworkers spokesman Dick Fontana said Ispat's average costs for labor and benefits during the first year would be $15.55 an hour, about 40.8 percent below the average labor costs of $26.25 an hour paid by other bar, rod and wire producers.

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