The United Steelworkers' Union (USW) has turned down a wage freeze and other concessions to the steel industry in a move company spokesmen say could threaten ''the very existence'' of the US steel industry, reports Monitor contributor Ed Townsend.
Unless there is a new contract proposal by the eight companies bargaining jointly with USW, the present contract will stand unchanged until it is renegotiated next year. Steel workers' pay went up 23 cents an hour Aug. 1 and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) are expected to add another 50 cents an hour. The contract runs through Aug. 31, 1983.
The companies, hoping to avoid these increases, asked for early bargaining. They said a new contract is ''mandatory'' to make labor costs competitive with those of foreign steelmakers and to revive the US industry.
Last week the industry made a contract proposal which companies said ''involved no wage cuts and no give-ups of any benefit currently received by any employee.'' Officials said under the proposal, unemployed workers would receive more aid. USW had a different interpretation: The offer, it contended, would have included a three-year wage freeze with a suspension of COLA increases in the first year. It took the 400-member bargaining council just 40 minutes to reject the proposal.