Precede NEW YORK
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Directors of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. say its chairman and chief executive officer, Dennis J. Carney, is expected to resign and union leaders believe that could help settle a 61-day-old walkout, published reports said.
Carney, 64, has agreed to tender his resignation Friday, according to a report published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal.
USW negotiator Paul D. Rusen said he believes new management could help resolve a dispute over labor cost concessions that have kept 8,200 steelworkers off their jobs at the company’s nine plants.
Wheeling-Pittsburgh, which filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in federal Bankruptcy Court in April, won approval July 17 to terminate its labor contract. The company imposed wage and benefit cuts of 18 percent and the steelworkers walked out in protest.
George A. Ferris, 69, a former Ford Motor Co. vice president who ran the automaker’s Rouge Steel unit, is under consideration to replace Carney, said one director, who would not speak for attribution.
″I’ve heard his name kicked around at a meeting earlier in the summer as a possible replacement in the event that Carney was going to resign″ the director said. ″But it didn’t sound very promising because the man has been only a one-plant manager. It’s a little hard to believe he could step into this complicated situation.″
Ferris said he plans to meet with Wheeling-Pittsburgh officials Friday but that he has not been offered the job.
″I’ve been invited to go there. I’m not at liberty to say who or anything at this moment,″ he said. ″I’ll be in Pittsburgh tomorrow to meet with some people.″
The director said ″it’s ridiculous″ to think the company could afford to pay more in labor costs than it offered in July.
″No matter who will be running the company, that’s going to be the fact,″ he said. The union ″is trying to play a political game saying that Carney is getting in the way of an agreement.″
Two unidentified directors told the Journal that board member Allen E. Paulson, the company’s largest shareholder, who has been at odds with Carney for more than a year, agreed to guarantee personally Carney’s severance benefits, under which he would receive as much as $1 million over the next few years.
The union’s chief negotiator, Paul Rusen, predicted in today that USW members would ″react warmly″ to Carney’s resignation.
″I’m a great deal more optimistic now (about settlement) than the day before yesterday,″ Rusen said. ″It now becomes a waiting game on our part to see who the new management team is.
″I would think their first priority would be to find a solution to the work stoppage,″ Rusen said.
The strike was called after Carney presented the union with an ultimatum - either accept a contract that the company said would cut wages and benefits 18 percent to $17.50 an hour, or another contract would take effect with the same economic terms but substantially diluted job protection.
The director played down reports that Paulson, chairman and chief executive officer of the Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., has had a running dispute with Carney.
″The directors to a man have always backed the position of the company in what they could pay,″ he said. ″The big thing has always been when can we get the strike settled.″
A spokeswoman for Paulson said he had no comment.