Tentative Bethlehem pact OK'd Steel union would gain influence

August 02, 1993|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Staff Writer

Bethlehem Steel Corp. and the United Steelworkers of America reached tentative agreement early yesterday on a six-year contract that gives union members more of a say in how the company is run.

The tentative agreement includes provisions for union representation on the company's board of directors and for workers' participation in decision-making.

"The union will have a say about the company's board of directors," said Gary Hubbard,a union spokesman in Pittsburgh. He said the company had agreed to allow "the influence of workers in big decisions."

The company and the union had agreed to extend the current four-year contract hour by hour past the strike deadline of midnight Saturday to let the talks continue.

The contract was approved 14-2 at 10:30 a.m. yesterday by 12 union local presidents and four union directors, Mr. Hubbard said.

"The settlement didn't come easily," the union's chief negotiators, John H. Reck, director of District 7 in Philadelphia, and David Wilson, director of District 8 in Baltimore, said in a statement. "This agreement should guarantee our mutual success through the rest of this decade and into the next century."

Curtis H. Barnette, Bethlehem Steel's chairman and chief executive officer, called the contract "fair and reasonable" and said it contains provisions that should improve productivity.

Mr. Barnette was particularly upbeat about the prospects for more union and worker involvement in the running of the company.

"There are excellent partnership structures in the agreement," he said. "I think we are going to see a turning point in our company and a turning point at Sparrows Point."

The tentative agreement, which is subject to the approval of the union's executive board and its members,covers more than 10,500 union members at Bethlehem Steel plants at Sparrows Point, Burns Harbor, Ind., and Lackawanna, N.Y.

The contract's benefit provisions also will apply to about 5,000 Bethlehem Steel workers at plants in Bethlehem and Steelton, Pa., who previously reached labor agreements with the company.

"We're very pleased, and we're very happy that it's over," said Robert A. Hamilton, the recording secretary of Steelworkers Local 2610, which represents about 2,200 workers at Sparrows Point. "It went all the way down to the wire."

In a news release, the union said the contract meets the goals of its "New Directions" program, which is aimed at protecting wages, benefits and job security, and giving workers a voice in decision-making and increasing worker productivity.

Giving unions access to the boardroom is common in Europe but unusual in the United States.

Neither side released details of the agreement, but sources familiar with the contract say it mirrors the pact reached in June with Inland Steel Industries Inc. of Chicago.

Under that six-year agreement, workers were given job security and a one-time 50-cent-an-hour wage increase.

The Bethlehem Steel agreement also includes a 50-cent-an-hour wage increase, along with another 50-cent increase if the company is profitable, a knowledgeable source said.

On average, Bethlehem Steel workers earn $13.69 an hour, a union spokesman said.

Other provisions of the contract, according to sources, include:

* A clause to reopen the contract after three years to negotiate economic issues.

* Four $500 signing bonuses for each worker to be spread over three years.

* * An increase in pensions.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.