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Restoration contract in steel.

Restoration contract in steel At the 11th hour, negotiators for the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. and 13 locals of the Steelworkers, representing some 5,500 workers at the company's seven facilities in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, signed a collective bargaining agreement that reportedly allows employees to approach comparability with workers at other major domestic steelmakers. The contract also should help Wheeling-Pittsburgh, the eighth largest steel company in the United States, to emerge from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection it has been under since April 1985.

Contract talks, the first held by the parties since 1985, began in November 1989. The initial company proposal, made in December 1989, was rejected. Talks resumed, but stalled for several weeks this spring because union leaders refused to continue to negotiate until the company's Chapter 11 reorganization plan was resolved, while the company insisted on negotiating a new contract before filing a revised reorganization plan. A second proposal was rejected last June, and a strike vote was taken in early July (however, a work stoppage never occurred). Union representatives cited subcontracting, successorship (recognition of the union if Wheeling-Pittsburgh is sold), restoration of past wage and benefit cuts, and local rules as strike issues.

After negotiations resumed, a third company proposal was rejected by the unions' negotiating team. Bargaining continued, and an accord was reached before the deadline set by the unions for a job action.

The new contract will be effective upon approval of the company's reorganization plan by the bankruptcy court, and will remain in effect until March 1, 1994. Terms provide for an immediate $1.50-an-hour wage increase (which effectively restores pay cuts agreed to under the 1982 and 1985 agreements); 50-cent-an-hour wage increases on April 1 of 1991 and 1992, and on January 1, 1993; an immediate $3,00 signing bonus; and an additional $500 bonus in 1991. (Union leaders had claimed that hourly pay of their members was nearly $5 an hour behind workers at the other major steel companies. Reportedly, the members had not had a wage increase for 10 years until the bankruptcy judge permitted a 50-cent-an-hour raise in July 1990.) The pact also restores 1 week of vacation, vacation bonuses, five holidays, time and a half for working on Sundays, and incentive rates.

Other terms include the payment of common stock (approximately 11 percent of the company's equity) in exchange for the $26.8 million workers had in an employee investment program; contract language "severely restricting" contracting out of work; a successorship clause; a career development program; improved severance pay and supplemental unemployment benefits; company payment of one-half of the premiums for optional major medical insurance for retirees; and a special enrollment period for retirees not already under the optional major medical plan.

"Developments in Industrial Relations" is prepared by Michael H. Cimini of the Division of Developments in Labor-Management Relations, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and is largely based on information from secondary sources.
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Title Annotation:Developments in industrial relations; Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.
Author:Cimini, Nichael H.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:486
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