YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - An agreement to extend unemployment, insurance and pension benefits for LTV Corp. workers through February was approved by a federal bankruptcy judge in Youngstown on Friday.
LTV spokesman Mark Tomasch said that lawyers completed wording of the agreement between the company and the United Steelworkers of America union late Thursday evening. The agreement was reached Wednesday during a U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing that had been convened to consider the company's request to void its union contract.
Voiding the contract would have eliminated benefits the company said are costing $4 million a week. Its manufacturing subsidiary, LTV Steel, has stopped making steel.
The company and the unions agreed in principle that LTV will extend benefits through February. The agreement was approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William Bodoh on Friday morning.
LTV lawyers told Bodoh on Wednesday that the company no longer can afford to pay retirement and unemployment benefits. But David Carroll, LTV's vice president of industrial relations, then testified that the company had offered late Tuesday to come up with $15 million to keep health insurance available to laid-off workers and to keep about 190 people working in primarily maintenance jobs.
The company earlier agreed to keep its steel mills in operating condition until February to make them easier to sell. A buyer has not been found. Tomasch said there have been some inquiries, but no offer.
The company has been in bankruptcy protection since Dec. 29. Earlier this month, it received permission to idle mills in Cleveland, East Chicago, Ind., and Hennepin, Ill., that employed about 7,500 workers.
Steelworkers union spokesman Mark Shaw said that the agreement will allow laid-off workers to receive health-care coverage and half of their supplemental unemployment benefits through Feb. 28.
Regular unemployment payments and the company-paid supplemental unemployment benefits allow union members to typically earn about 70 percent of their base pay when laid off.
he agreement will also use a company trust fund to pay retiree health benefits and pensions until the middle of next year, and keep LTV's coke plants in Warren and Chicago idle until Jan. 31, instead of Dec. 28, Shaw said.
Steelworkers officials were in Washington on Thursday attempting to win congressional support for a $250 million federal loan guarantee that a buyer for LTV could use in restarting operations. Union officials said that the next goal, however, is to get someone to buy the mills.
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