LUKENS SACRIFICING PROFITS, PERFORMANCE, QUALITY
BY FORCING STRIKE, USW PRESIDENT WILLIAMS SAYS
NEW YORK, Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- By forcing its workers out on strike, "Lukens Steel Company has taken an action that can have serious implications for the company's short-term and long-term outlook," Lynn Williams, International president of the United Steelworkers of America (USW), told a group of steel industry analysts here today.
Over 1,300 Lukens hourly employees, members of USW Local Union 1165, have been on strike at Lukens' Coatesville, Pa., plant since Oct. 1, 1991.
"By forcing the workers out on strike, Lukens cost itself the skilled, experienced workforce that has made this company the top producer of alloy plate steel in America," Williams said. "That's hurt Lukens' ability to meet current orders, and it's been reflected by the drastic drop in the company's stock -- down 17 percent since the strike started.
"But what's possibly worse for the long-term," said Williams, "are the unprecedented firings of top management personnel before, during, and after negotiations."
The union said that news reports have stated that the people Lukens fired -- including Steel Division President Albert Eastburn, Lukens Inc. (NYSE: LUC) President Harry Skilton, and Maintenance Superintendent Donald Young -- were let go because they were part of a group within management that wanted to reach a reasonable agreement with the union.
"That tells you something about the mind-set of the people who are now in control at the company," said Williams. "The people who were fired played a major role -- on management's side -- in making the company the most profitable steel company in America.
"But they're gone now," said Williams, "simply because they wanted to sit down and reach a fair agreement with the workers, so the company could continue to produce the best-quality steel.
"So far, Lukens appears to be set on rejecting the reasonable, responsible approach the union -- and many of the company's own top managers -- were prepared to take," Williams said.
"Now they've got inexperienced management and inexperienced replacement' workers trying to make steel," said Williams, "and they're saying they can still produce high-quality product and make profits.
"That's kind of hard to swallow," Williams said. "Any short- term or long-term investor who looks at this company can see that it's in deep, deep trouble. And it will stay that way until the experienced, skilled Steelworkers the company has forced out on strike -- the people who have made this company so profitable -- are back to work, with a fair contract in their pockets."
The workers at Lukens have been without wage increases or significant improvements in benefits since 1982, the union said. They are seeking an agreement with the company that is on par with agreements reached with other major steel companies over the last two years, including USX, Bethlehem, Inland, Wheeling-Pittsburgh and others, the USW said.
Lukens has made the highest profit per ton of steel shipped of all major American steel companies in each of the last four years, including the first three quarters of 1991.
The USW said the major issues in the dispute are Lukens' refusal to consider the union's proposals for:
-- Industry-pattern pension benefits;
-- A fair compensation package including cost-of-living provisions and profit-sharing;
-- Decent health insurance benefits for retirees and surviving spouses;
-- Successorship language that would help protect the workers' pensions and other benefits from a corporate raider; and
-- Language that would provide a measure of job security by limiting excessive contracting out practices by the company.
Joining Williams at the meeting were Ray MacDonald, the union's chief negotiator for Lukens; Bernard Kleiman, USW general counsel; John Vogel, assistant director of USW District 7; Harold Yost, a member of USW Local 1165's Negotiating Committee; and Ernie Perella, a member of Local 1165 who works as a quality assurance inspector in the plant.
/CONTACT: Harry Haines, president, USW Local Union 1165, 215-384-9180; Mike Locker, steel analyst, Locker and Associates, 212-962-2980; or USW Communications Department, 412-562-2442/
(LUC) CO: United Steelworkers of America; Lukens Steel Company; Lukens Inc. ST: Pennsylvania IN: MNG SU: DM -- PG005 -- 0171 11/01/91 11:12 EST