The CEO says demand is being met, despite the lockout of 340 workers.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
WEATHERSFIELD -- The value of orders waiting to be produced at RTI International Metals increased 77 percent in the third quarter, signaling a rosier future for the parent company of RMI Titanium.
But increasing orders have not weakened the company's resolve to continue its lockout of 340 unionized RMI workers in a contract dispute, said Timothy Rupert, RTI president and chief executive.
Rupert said RMI salaried employees and replacement workers from other RTI facilities have been operating the Weathersfield township titanium mill and successfully meeting customer demand.
He said he wanted to dispel "speculation" that the company might not be able to meet growing demand with its workers locked out.
Members of United Steelworkers of America Locals 2155 and 2155-7 marked the one-year anniversary of the lockout with a prayer vigil in Niles Tuesday evening. RMI locked out the workers after they rejected a contract offer on Oct. 25, 2003, and the members also voted down a second offer in August.
Discussing RTI's quarterly financial results for the three months ending Sept. 30, Rupert said its order backlog reached $184 million by that date, up 77 percent from the $104 million backlog at the end of the second quarter.
Between 70 percent and 75 percent of that order backlog is for commercial aerospace orders, he said, and the rest is for energy-related and defense orders.
Rupert said he expects to see business increase even more because aircraft producers like Boeing and Airbus have announced plans to ramp up production, but he's not sure how long the upturn will last.
"There's no question, it's a much healthier market," he said, "but will it be short-lived and end with another lull?"
The company president said, however, that he expects 2005 to be a better year for RTI than 2004 has been.
RTI reported a third quarter loss of $2.2 million, or 10 cents per share, on sales of $54 million.
Rupert said the company actually "broke even" for the quarter, considering that it spent an extra $2.4 million on expenses related to implementing the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The law is designed to enhance corporate responsibility and financial disclosures among publicly-held companies.
Finally, Rupert defended the company's reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission in light of the union's allegation that RTI violated federal securities laws. Locals 2155 and 2155-7 are asking the SEC to investigate RTI's notification to shareholders of a recent retirement plan supplement for Rupert.
"We take our reporting requirements very seriously, and based on our preliminary review, we believe all the material facts have been disclosed," he said. "If the SEC says more is needed, we'll fix it."