Wheeling-Pittsburgh To Meet With Federal Mediators
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. officials plan to meet with federal mediators Thursday in an attempt to end the steel industry’s first major walkout in 26 years.
The strike by 8,200 members of the United Steelworkers of America began July 21. No negotiations are planned between the two sides.
Mediator Robert Housholder said the union would not be represented at Thursday’s talks, which were set to ″explore some ideas.″ Housholder declined to elaborate further.
Housholder and mediator Carmon Newell managed to bring company and union negotiators together for about an hour July 20, hours before the mill workers rejected Wheeling-Pittsburgh’s pay cuts.
The steelworkers are protesting the company’s decision to dissolve their labor contract and sharply reduce wages and benefits as approved by a bankruptcy court judge. The nation’s seventh-largest steel producer said the labor cost reductions amounted to 18 percent, dropping average wages to $9.10 per hour. Union leaders said the cuts actually lowered the company’s labor costs by 27 percent, reducing the average wage below $8 per hour.
Wheeling-Pittsburgh filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws April 16, unable to pay debts which have grown from $514 million then to nearly $530 million.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Warren Bentz allowed Wheeling-Pittsburgh to void the union contract at its nine plants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.