Bethlehem Steel talks fail to resolve strike


As strikers circled the entrance to the Bethlehem Steel Corp. shipyard at Sparrows Point yesterday, union and management officials met but failed to reach an agreement on a contract.

The two sides were scheduled to meet again today with Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, and a federal mediator, Leo Gant.

On Thursday night, the shipbuilders overwhelmingly rejected a company offer of a $950 signing bonus in return for the elimination of a 45-cents-an-hour bonus and wage freeze.

"Who would accept [the equivalent of] a 4 percent pay cut for the next three years?" asked Robert W. Pemberton, a member of the striking Lodge 33 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers/Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding workers.

But the company said that the workers' pay -- which ranges from $10.38 to $12.52 an hour before the profit-sharing bonus -- on top of the contract's vacation and overtime provisions, was making it difficult for the yard to win bids for new work.

The yard, which once employed as many as 4,000 workers, employed only 600 on Friday, of whom 440 were union members, said G. Ted Baldwin, a Bethlehem Steel spokesman.

The picketing, the first against the shipyard since 1989, was peaceful, Baltimore County police Sgt. Richard Deems said yesterday.

He said police officers will show up in force tomorrow morning to ensure the safety of salaried employees who will likely attempt to cross the picket line.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad