By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun
6:50 PM EDT, August 23, 2012
A settlement agreement ending health benefits for Sparrows Point workers Aug. 31 was approved Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.
The agreement, struck by mill owner RG Steel and the United Steelworkers union last week, also retroactively ended supplemental unemployment pay as of Aug. 10. Judge Kevin J. Carey, who is overseeing RG Steel's bankruptcy case, wrote in Thursday's court order that the deal appeared to be "in the best interests of the Debtors, their estates, their creditors and other parties."
The steel mill's 2,000 employees are largely laid off, their futures uncertain.
RG Steel idled the complex after filing for bankruptcy-law protection in May, auctioning it off this month to a redevelopment firm working with a liquidation company. The buyers say they hope to find an operator to restart part or all of Sparrows Point.
The Thursday court hearing included objections from companies about the deadline to remove equipment and other property not owned by RG Steel from Sparrows Point. Among them were Vanomet International and Oxbow Carbon & Minerals, which both said in court documents that they couldn't possibly remove their coke — fuel for steelmaking blast furnaces — within three weeks of receiving notice that the sale has closed.
Vanomet's filing said its 180,000 metric tons of coke stored on site could likely "take months" to remove. Oxbow requested at least 120 days after the deal closes to move its more than 10,000 metric tons, which it said RG Steel was supposed to purchase but never did.
Carey asked the firms to work with the new buyers on a resolution, according to American Metal Market.
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