Ispat talks break down once again Reopening doubtful for Sparrows Pt. mill

February 22, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey has been unable to restart contract talks between the United Steelworkers of America and the potential buyer of Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s bar, rod and wire division.

The failure of the last-ditch effort puts the possible reopening of the rod mill at Sparrows Point in Baltimore County in extreme doubt.

Neither representatives for Governor Casey nor for the potential buyer, Ispat Mexicana S.A. de C.V., were available for comment last night.

"It was hard to breathe life into it," said Francis X. Powers, a spokesman for the Steelworkers. "The governor hasn't gotten any further with the Ispat group than we had."

Four months ago, Bethlehem Steel signed a letter of intent to sell its bar, rod and wire mill division to Ispat Mexicana, part of the Ispat Group of Calcutta, India. The division has about 2,000 workers at mills at Johnstown, Pa.; Lackawanna, N.Y.; and Sparrows Point. The Sparrows Point operation, closed since Aug. 15, had 340 workers.

Ispat officials had said the negotiating of an acceptable contract was crucial to concluding the purchase and reopening of the division.

Contract negotiations between the Steelworkers and Ispat broke down Thursday after the union rejected the company's proposal and Ispat refused to consider a counterproposal. Governor Casey then called the two sides to his offices in Harrisburg for meetings on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Mr. Powers said no further negotiation sessions are scheduled.

The Steelworkers called Ispat's wage offer unacceptable. A Steelworkers spokesman said last week that Ispat's average co sts for labor and benefits during the first year of the proposed contract would have been $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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