LTV Corp. reached a tentative agreement with its workers Wednesday to extend unemployment and insurance benefits for displaced workers through February.

The agreement was made 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 health care and unemployment benefits to up to 100,00 workers and family members.

Instead, the company and the unions agreed in principal that the company will extend those benefits to some workers through March.

The company has already agreed to keep its steel mills in operating condition until then to make them easier to sell.

LTV Corp. lawyers told a federal bankruptcy judge Wednesday that the company can no longer afford to pay the retirement and unemployment benefits of thousands of steelworkers.

David Carroll, LTV's vice president of industrial relations, testified the company had offered to come up with $15 million to keep health insurance available to laid-off workers until then and to keep about 190 people working in primarily maintenance jobs.

Lawyers on both sides confirmed Wednesday night that that offer was the basis of the agreement, though the company had agreed to add other benefits as well.

Steelworkers gathered outside the hall cheered the news of the tentative deal.

Both sides said they hoped to be able to bring a final agreement before the judge Thursday for his signature.

LTV, the nation's third-largest integrated steel company, handled the entire steel process from ore to scrap. It produced about 5 percent of the nation's steel.

The company has been in bankruptcy protection since Dec. 29. Earlier this month it received permission to idle LTV Steel mills in Cleveland, East Chicago, Ind., and Hennepin, Ill., that employed about 7,500 workers.