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Bankrupt steelmaker lays off 100 more

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2003

Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corp. laid off 100 salaried employees Friday, bringing the total number of layoffs at the bankrupt steelmaker to 700 since November 2000.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh has facilities scattered in the Monongahela and Ohio valleys of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The company said the layoffs will affect all of its plants and were prompted by recent and pending agreements between the United Steelworkers of America and the country's largest steelmakers that have focused on cutting management-level positions.

"We will make every effort to be among the leaders as the steel industry moves to improve its cost structure through a leaner management organization and more competitive labor costs, while retaining our customer focus on quality and on-time delivery," said James G. Bradley, president and chief executive of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. "We will work with the USW as we continue to explore ways to reinvent how Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel manages its businesses and stays competitive in this new environment."

The Wheeling, W.Va., based company has plants in Allenport, Washington County; Steubenville, Mingo Junction, Yorkville and Martin's Ferry, Ohio; and Beech Bottom, W.Va.

"It's the wave of the future," said John Duray, a spokesman for the United Steelworkers union. "You don't need a bunch of bosses telling people what they already know how to do."

Following yesterday's layoffs, Wheeling-Pittsburgh has about 3,800 employees. The company filed a bankruptcy reorganization plan in Youngstown, Ohio, last month.

International Steel Group employees will vote on an agreement with the USW that cuts benefits but also reduces the number of managers. The union is working with ISG to extend that agreement to Bethlehem Steel Corp. employees as part of ISG's $1.5 billion bid for Bethlehem.

The union also has said it will use the ISG agreement as a template for negotiations with Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp., which has said its $950 million bid for bankrupt National Steel Corp. is contingent on a new labor agreement.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh said ISG, which acquired the assets of bankrupt LTV Corp. a year ago, is now producing as much steel as LTV but with far fewer people.

"And the first big whacks they took were at the management level," Duray said about ISG. "They're running the leanest management ship in the industry."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, said yesterday he was troubled to learn of the layoffs but hopeful Wheeling-Pittsburgh will obtain a $250 million loan through the Emergency Steel Loan Guarantee program. Royal Bank of Canada filed the application on behalf of the steelmaker in September.

"The West Virginia delegation has strongly encouraged the board to approve the loan, and if the administration is truly committed to West Virginia steel, they will do so — and quickly," Rockefeller said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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