STEEL INDUSTRY ISG and union tentatively OK innovative pact

Hourly wages would be between $15 and $20.50.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- A tentative labor agreement with International Steel Group Inc. includes innovations that could be copied in contracts throughout the steel industry, including an effort to link productivity with raises, union and company officials said.
ISG, which took over LTV mills last spring, and the union announced the six-year pact covering 2,750 workers. The agreement, announced Monday, will be submitted soon for a rank-and-file ratification vote.
The agreement, most of which had been reached as ISG prepared to take over LTV's steel operations, will provide hourly wages ranging from $15 to $20.50, a bit higher than union standards nationwide, said David McCall, the union's Ohio district director.
The contract gives the company more flexibility to reassign workers, but it also provides the union a greater voice in those decisions, said Jim Robinson, the union's district director in Indiana and Illinois.
Other companies
Robinson said he expects the union to try to replicate the ISG contract in negotiations with other companies.
The union generally seeks equal contracts for workers in different companies, Robinson said.
"When we negotiate a contract, we have an eye toward the overall playing field," Robinson said. "It will be interesting to see the other companies' reaction to some of these provisions."
The U.S. steel industry has suffered for several years with high labor costs, generous pension benefits and fierce competition from cheaper imports. More than 30 steel companies have filed for bankruptcy since 1998, and the federal government has sought to take over pension plans at several of the largest bankrupt producers.
Security, pay incentives
According to the company and union, the contract will provide added job security and pay incentives for increased productivity.
Profit-sharing levels will be similar to the six extra weeks of pay the company voluntarily gave workers since it began operating in April, ISG chairman Wilbur L. Ross Jr. said.
The union will give more detailed estimates of profit-sharing in informational meetings for members, McCall said.
Job security will be linked to expanded training so workers could do different jobs as needed to avert layoffs if steel demand slows, he said.
"The tentative agreement we're announcing today will save our members' jobs and deliver prosperity to them and ISG for years to come," said Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America.
LTV filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2000. In February, Judge William Bodoh of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Youngstown approved Ross' bid of $127 million plus other liabilities for LTV mills.
Other plants
ISG operates integrated flat rolled steel plants in Cleveland and Indiana Harbor in East Chicago, Ind., and a finishing plant in Hennepin, Ill. ISG also runs a coke plant in Warren and in September acquired Riverdale, Ill.-based Acme Steel's caster and hot strip mill.
Ross said the contract, if ratified, would allow ISG to focus on buying all or part of bankrupt Bethlehem Steel.

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