RMI TITANIUM RTI reports $7 million loss at Weathersfield plant

A union leader wonders how RMI could lose money with 340 workers locked out.
WEATHERSFIELD -- RTI International Metals said it has lost $7 million so far this year at its RMI Titanium plant in Weathersfield where 340 unionized employees have been locked out since last October.
The RMI parent company reported profits of $433,000, or 2 cents per share, on sales of $55.6 million in its second quarter ending June 30. That compares with a second-quarter profit of $1 million, or 5 cents per share, on sales of $49.1 million in the same period a year ago.
RTI earned $3.2 million on sales of $110 million in the first half, compared with profits of $5.3 million on sales of $108 million in the first six months of 2003.
But the company said its Titanium Group, of which RMI is a part, posted a quarterly loss of $2.1 million on sales of $35 million, including $22.1 million in sales to other RTI divisions. The group earned $1.3 million in the second quarter of 2003, on sales of $40.8 million.
RTI said in a press release that the Titanium Group's performance was affected by a $3 million, second-quarter operating loss at RMI, where salaried employees have been running the plant since members of United Steelworkers of America Locals 2155 and 2155-7 rejected a contract offer.
RMI also had an operating loss of $4 million in the first quarter.
RTI president and chief executive Timothy G. Rupert praised the salaried work force operating the Weathersfield plant, however, noting that the plant's performance had "improved considerably" compared with the previous quarter.
He said RTI officials are "particularly proud" of the salaried workers at RMI "who are not only getting the job done with half as many people, but are continuously improving on their own performance."
Union leader's response
But Todd Weddell, union president, was surprised to learn that the plant is losing money. "I find it very interesting that sales are up, they have all these employees locked out with no pay and no benefits, and yet they continue to lose money," he said.
Weddell, who is in Boston meeting with some delegates attending the Democratic National Convention there this week, said the union has been told RTI is bringing in workers from some of its other plants to run the Weathersfield titanium mill.
The union has repeatedly offered to have its members go back to work while negotiations continued, but the company has declined.
Richard Leone, a company spokesman, said recent RMI losses are related to the sluggish commercial aerospace market and not to the plant operation costs. "The market is still terrible, and its really based on that," Leone said.
Rupert agreed during a telephone conference call held to discuss the company's performance. He said the situation has been "arguably the worst downturn in titanium's history."
Division improves
RTI said its Fabrication and Distribution Group earned $1.7 million on sales of $51.7 million in the second quarter, a $2.7 million improvement over its performance in that period a year ago. The company said the turnaround was related to resolution of production problems on several RTI Energy projects and continued strong performance by its domestic distribution groups.
Rupert said RTI expects its operations to expand and its pricing to grow in light of a recent increase in new aircraft orders. In the meantime, however, he said the company is looking for ways to grow its business outside of aerospace and working to reduce production costs at all its facilities.
RTI shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol RTI, closed at $14.28 Tuesday, up 22 cents for the day. The share price over the past 52 weeks has ranged from $9.81 to $19.12.

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