Geneva Steel and the steelworkers union agreed Friday to extend their current labor agree-ment while they finalize a new pact.

Union leaders and company executives hope to strike a deal by April 9."Things are going well. There are just some complex issues that need additional time," said Kelly Hansen, financial secretary of United Steelworkers of America Local No. 2701.

The union's contract with Geneva expires March 31.

Carl Ramnitz, Geneva vice president for human resources, said items such as seniority rules and grievance procedures are finished, while economic matters like wages and health insurance remain on the table. He said he's confident the new deadline will be met.

The inability to reach an agreement before the end of a contract isn't unusual, though past negotiations have been more acrimonious and more public. Steelworkers worked day to day for 10 days in 1995 until union bosses and company executives reached an accord. Workers three years ago also conducted work slowdowns and nearly walked off the job.

The climate is different this time around. "Try a million percent. The atmosphere is fine. Sometimes it takes a little longer than expected," Ramnitz said.

Both sides agreed to keep negotiations private in an attempt to mend their fractured relationship. Discussions have taken place mostly in Provo, although officials spent the past week in Pittsburgh. Talks are scheduled to resume again Monday.

Hansen said more information will be forthcoming after a proposed contract is presented to rank-and-file workers for a vote.

Geneva Chairman Joe Cannon and union President Dennis Kujala confirmed earlier that a partnership agreement and employment security for 2,100 union workers were among the items on the bargaining table.

Cannon has said the company can't safeguard many jobs, and might be looking to reduce the work force by 30 percent over the next few years. Kujala said the union could live with that as long as the jobs weren't cut all at once.

The financially struggling steel mill is undergoing significant managerial and operational changes. Labor reductions and administrative cost cuts are in the offing as the company tried to become more stream-lined.

Geneva laid off 180 office and plant workers in January.