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Nonunion Steel Retirees Face Cuts

July 17, 2003

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP) _ Bankrupt National Steel Corp. on Wednesday said it will stop paying health and life insurance premiums by the end of the month for about 7,000 retirees who were salaried, nonunion employees.

National, which has been acquired by Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp., said it had reached a settlement with a retirees’ committee to offer new benefits options.

Retirees will have three choices: paying to continue their existing medical coverage through October; paying for employer-sponsored medical coverage with reduced rates and benefits; or finding their own coverage.

National is among several steel makers that have been hit by high costs for retiree insurance and pensions.

Tamara J. Freeman, a spokeswoman for Mishawaka-based National Steel, said the benefit options offered to former salaried, nonunion employees were ``similar to what has been offered elsewhere.″

A bankruptcy judge in Chicago on Tuesday approved similar benefits options for National retirees who were wage-earning, union employees, Freeman said. Those retirees’ benefits also are expiring July 31.

The pensions of both former employee groups have been taken over by the government’s pension insurance program. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. recently sent out letters to notify about 35,000 retirees of the change.

National Steel employed about 8,200 when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2002, citing depressed steel prices, competition from imported steel and a weak overall U.S. economy.

U.S. Steel acquired National in May, and National is now winding down its business.

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On the Net:

National Steel: http://www.nationalsteel.com

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