Mediators Present Bargaining Proposals
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Despite proposals from federal mediators to help revive bargaining, a speedy resolution of a strike against Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. appeared doubtful as the walkout entered its 13th day today.
About 8,200 members of the United Steelworkers are staging the nation’s first major steel shutdown in 26 years to protest Wheeling-Pittsburgh’s effort to reduce wages and benefits.
The company dissolved its labor contract as part of its current Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court.
Following an hour-long meeting Thursday with the company, federal mediator Carmon Newell said he and mediator Robert Housholder would await the company’s response to their proposals before scheduling a meeting, that would come next week at the earliest, with union leaders.
Newell did not release details of the discussions with company representative s.
The company missed a deadline Wednesday for making a $5.7 million contribution to its pension program, which the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. says already was underfunded by more than $300 million.
Wheeling-Pittsburgh simultaneously asked the Internal Revenue Service for a waiver on the payment, company spokesman Ken Maxcy said. The pension program for about 10,000 retirees remains in place in the meantime, he said.
The steelmaker also has asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Warren W. Bentz to reject a request by banks and insurance companies that he create a committee of secured creditors. The committee, representing lenders who are owed $527 million in loans, would have a separate voice in drafting a reorganization plan.
Wheeling-Pittsburgh also asked Bentz to reject a request for a shareholders’ committee. The request was made by Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. Chairman Allen E. Paulson and Nisshin Steel Co. Ltd. of Japan, the company’s largest and second-largest shareholders respectively. The Securities and Exchange Commission joined in the request.
Bentz has yet to rule on the two requests.