Furnace Specialists

 

USWA to Begin Negotiations with U.S. Steel

Pittsburgh, PA - Following what the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) characterized as "very constructive meetings," the Union has agreed to begin negotiations with U.S. Steel on a new labor agreement that would cover Steelworkers at National Steel, as well as those working in U.S. Steel's North American bargaining units.

As part of the agreement to negotiate, U.S. Steel has committed to suspend any further actions with regard to the sale of any of its North American steel-related assets.

According to USWA President Leo Gerard, "While we expect these negotiations to be challenging, we are quite hopeful about the outcome. Our discussions with U.S. Steel have indicated to us that its management recognizes the importance of engaging our Union in the kind of innovative and constructive bargaining called for by our Basic Steel Industry Conference.

"If that attitude continues, there is no reason that we cannot move forward quickly to put U.S. Steel in a position to acquire National Steel and continue the humane consolidation that the steel industry needs."

Gerard added that the Union will also continue working closely with National Steel's management and creditors on a "stand alone" plan of reorganization of the company.

"The new labor agreement we've negotiated with the International Steel Group (ISG)," Gerard said, "opens up a host of possibilities. The ISG agreement, and the likelihood of a similar agreement being reached as part of the purchase of Bethlehem Steel, provides a template for a new pattern agreement for the basic steel industry in the U.S."

In September 2002, the Union's Basic Steel Industry Conference (BSIC) established a set of principles that it said were necessary to bring about a humane consolidation of the American steel industry.

Since then, the principles laid out by the BSIC have served as guideposts in negotiating a labor agreement with ISG that establishes reduced management staffing, provides workers a stronger voice in productivity improvements, secures industry-leading wages and incentives, and takes the historic step of securing commitments to invest in North American steel making facilities.

"Using the ISG template, with adaptations appropriate to the needs of our affected members, should lead to a good agreement for all concerned," Gerard said.

The Union indicated that it remains willing to engage in discussions with AK Steel, which has also made a bid to purchase National Steel's assets, but said it expected that process to be more difficult, given AK's continued unwillingness to resolve issues stemming from its three-year illegal lockout of steelworkers at its Mansfield, Ohio plant and the long history of its difficult relations with the USWA. Nonetheless, the Union indicated that it planned to sit down with AK as soon as possible.