Bethlehem, union to start talks five months before pact expires

February 25, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Bethlehem Steel Corp. and the United Steelworkers of America announced yesterday that they will begin negotiating next week for a new labor agreement -- five months before the current contract expires.

The early negotiations, which are also starting at three other major steel companies, comes about two months after the union said it would consider contracts longer than the traditional three years as well as more flexible work rules in exchange for more job security.

In a joint announcement, Bethlehem and the Steelworkers said they would be working toward a longer-term contract and expect to have a settlement by May 1 -- three months before the July 31 expiration of their contract.

Bethlehem, which owns the Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore County, has not had a strike in its basic steel operation since 1959. The Sparrows Point steel mill has 5,800 workers.

Other companies starting separate negotiations next week with the Steelworkers include USX-U.S. Steel Group, National Steel Corp. and Inland Steel Industries. All of the companies' contracts expire July 31, except for the one with USX, which expires Jan. 31, 1994.

The negotiations with Bethlehem will begin Tuesday with a meeting of union officials who represent Bethlehem plants in Pittsburgh, according to Steelworkers spokesman Dick Fontana. This will be followed by negotiations on local agreements covering individual plants, he said.

Stock analysts have been predicting a turnaround in the steel industry this year.

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