Union, Company Financial Advisors Meet
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A United Steelworkers official said Tuesday that Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. canceled employee meetings at which company officials had planned to plead for steep wage cuts.
The rank-and-file session in Wheeling, W.Va., Tuesday and another in Steubenville, Ohio, Wednesday were called off after financial advisers to the USW and Wheeling-Pittsburgh agreed to meet to attempt to reconcile conflicting projections of whether the company could survive Chapter 11 reorganization without lower labor costs.
″This is an important step in our attempts to negotiate a contract with the company, but it is not a negotiating session. This is a meeting between our outside financial consultants and the company’s representatives that we have been seeking for months,″ said Paul D. Rusen, USW District 23 director and chief negotiator for the union.
″We hope we are able to reach an understanding on market forecasts so we can get down to the business of reaching a mutually acceptable settlement,″ Rusen said in a printed statement.
Jay Simonin, a company labor relations representative, told some of the workers who gathered in Wheeling Tuesday that a negotiated contract settlement would be better than rejection of the current pact, which expires July 31, 1986.
Wheeling-Pittsburgh, the nation’s seventh-largest steel producer, filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws in April.
Bankruptcy Judge Warren Bentz is deliberating on the company’s request for permission to dissolve its union contract and unilaterally lower labor costs, including benefits and pension contributions, from $21.40 per hour to $15.20.
Rusen has said the 8,200 USW members employed by the company will strike if the reduction is made. Another 10,000 USW members are Wheeling-Pittsbu rgh retirees.
Union advisers say better management and a modest improvement in business conditions could make Wheeling-Pittsburgh profitable without the labor cost reductions. Company advisers say the steelmaker could be forced to liquidate under Chapter 13 without the cuts.