Sunday, July 01, 2001

Steelmaker and union take a breather

Troubled LTV wants labor concessions

The Associated Press

        CLEVELAND — LTV Corp. and the United Steelworkers of America decided to take a break late Friday after failing to agree on a new labor contract.

        Their full committees are not scheduled to meet again until Monday.

        The company's creditors were involved in talks with union representatives and LTV management in Pittsburgh. After two overnight sessions, they had hoped to have a labor agreement by 5 p.m.

        Unsecured creditors for the bankrupt steelmaker initially had set a Tuesday deadline for an agreement. That deadline also was extended.

        Union officials said they were making substantial progress.

        The creditors' committee “had trouble analyzing one part of the package and said they were tired and needed to go home,” David McCall of the Steelworkers told the Plain Dealer.

        Mr. McCall, the union's Ohio district director and chairman of its LTV bargaining committee, said he was disappointed and thinks it's important “that we bring this to conclusion.” He added that there would be some conversations during the weekend.

        LTV officials said they are trying to put a restructuring plan in effect that will save $800 million annually, and that one-third of those savings must come from labor costs. Without a new contract, LTV will run out of money and be forced to liquidate by September, the company has said.

        The contract dispute covers 9,000 employees of the corporation's LTV Steel subsidiary, including 3,200 in northeast Ohio.

        Some of those workers gathered for a picnic in a water park Friday while awaiting word on their jobs, pensions and health plans.

        LTV's West Side mill, where 800 Steelworkers union members have been laid off, remained on idled status Friday. The smaller of the two Cleveland LTV plants had been set to shut down at 5 p.m.

        Union spokesman John Duray said late Friday that he was told the plant would keep partially active through 5 p.m. Monday.

        The bankrupt company wants to close the aging plant, which stopped producing steel ingots two weeks ago. A handful of workers are keeping the furnaces warm to make restarting easier, though LTV says it has no intention of reopening the mill.

        Creditors have said the money that's being spent on keeping the mill idle could instead go to pay bills. Company spokesman Mark Tomasch has said it would be too expensive to refurbish the mill.

        LTV Corp. filed last December for reorganization under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

        LTV is the nation's third-largest integrated steelmaker, meaning it takes the metal from ore to scrap.

        The corporation reported $719 million in losses on $4.9 billion in sales in 2000. Its losses in 1999 totaled $212 million. The company blames competition from imports.


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