Steelworkers, Ispat talks at stalemate

March 31, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

The two sides negotiating a labor contract that could lead to the reopening of an idled Bethlehem Steel Corp. division seem ready to throw in the towel.

On Monday, the United Steelworkers of America rejected a contract proposal by Ispat Mexicana S.A. de C.V., which created BRW-Ispat Inc. to buy the bar, rod and wire division from Bethlehem Steel.

"It is time that BRW-Ispat group stop toying with our members and deceiving the community," Steelworkers President Lynn R. Williams said in statement.

Ispat had signed a letter of intent with Bethlehem Steel in November to buy the division, which had about 2,000 workers at mills at Johnstown, Pa.; Lackawanna, N.Y.; and Sparrows Point. The Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore County, which closed Aug. 15, had 340 workers.

Yesterday, the union issued an angry statement, calling the latest offer a "hoax" and called on Ispat to either respond to the union's previous proposal by April 2 or "step aside to allow other prospective buyers to become involved."

The union was particularly upset by a provision in the proposed five-year contract that allowed the contract to be reopened after the third year only if the division had an after-tax profit of $54 million or more. Mr. Williams said the threshold could not be reached, ensuring low wages for the entire five years.

An Ispat official seemed equally disgusted with the union. "I don't think there are any more tricks in Ispat's bag," said Gregory F. Paolini, president of BRW Ispat. Maintaining that Ispat had met the requirements of the union, Mr. Paolini said he doubted talks would be resurrected. "It doesn't look good," he said.

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