A federal bankruptcy judge approved RG Steel's $767,000 "retention" plan for 21 employees Tuesday over the sharp objections of the United Steelworkers.
The payments, approved by Judge Kevin J. Carey in Wilmington, include stipends for health insurance and a bonus equal to three months' salary, if the workers remain through Dec. 31. RG Steel — which owned the Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore County before auctioning it to a redevelopment firm and liquidator this summer — said the move was necessary to wind down its estate.
The 21 employees are "the last remnants" of the company, down from more than 4,800 workers in May, RG Steel said. About 2,000 of the laid-off employees worked at Sparrows Point.
The United Steelworkers called the payments "inappropriate, unfair and outrageous" in a letter to members. Its attorneys said RG Steel didn't justify the plan, and noted that retirees and laid-off workers have been stuck with unpaid bills for medical care provided before the company's health plan ceased.
"These unpaid bills have the potential to ruin the lives, credit and financial health (to say nothing of the physical health) of RG's former employees and retirees," the union said in its court filing.