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MANA cuts hourly staff as talks with USW stall

Keywords: Tags  Max Aicher North American, MANA, David Cameron, USW Local 1005, Rolf Gerstenberger, steel, labor negotiations, U.S. Steel Stelco

CHICAGO — Max Aicher North America Inc. (MANA) has laid off 30 hourly employees and hasn’t restarted its bar mill in Hamilton, Ontario, as expected, as labor talks between the company and the United Steelworkers union appear to have stalled.

MANA chief financial officer David Cameron told AMM Friday that the company laid off 30 workers in early November, leaving only 13 hourly workers on the job at present. Many of the workers who were laid off had been recalled in April to perform maintenance and to salvage scrap to bring revenue for the facility, he said.

The November layoffs came not only because of a lack of work but also because MANA didn’t have a “competitive” new labor contract, Cameron said. “Currently, we’re not producing anything,” he said. “It would be better for all stakeholders that are involved in Max Aicher North America that we get back into business as soon as possible.”

Negotiations have been taking place since the second quarter of this year, Cameron said. MANA had said that it had hoped to resume production in the second quarter (, May 9).

“We were hopeful that we would have had (a new labor agreement) already and then we would not have had to go through with the layoff because we expect(ed) there would have been work available,” Cameron said.

MANA inherited the current expired labor contract from U.S. Steel Corp. as it looked to restart the bar mill assets of the former Stelco Inc. (, Nov. 29, 2010), which it had acquired from the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, Cameron said.

MANA was focused on ramping up operations at the time and the union was absorbed by a lockout at U.S. Steel’s Hamilton Works (, Nov. 8, 2010), so both sides agreed to honor the expired contract for the time being, Cameron said.

USW Local 1005 represents workers at both MANA and U.S. Steel’s operations in Hamilton Works.

But Cameron said that he hoped talks would produce results, possibly in the near term. “We expect that we will get a competitive bargaining agreement, that we will finalize our billet supply and that we will restart the operation,” he said.

MANA, which has production capacity of 300,000 tons per year, has said it is working to secure a low-cost source of billet that could be used to make threaded bar, a construction product (, May 9).

USW Local 1005 president Rolf Gerstenberger told AMM Friday that another round of talks was scheduled for Monday but added that he wasn’t sure if they would produce results. “There is nothing happening,” he said of negotiations to date. “We get the feeling that they (MANA) don’t even know what they want to do with this plant. They have about a dozen people working there and half of them are winterizing it, so it looks like it’s down until the spring.”

Gerstenberger said that the current contract expired on July 31, 2010. He said a conciliator had been requested by MANA and appointed by the government two months ago but that no breakthrough had come as result. “We spent a while back in late summer meeting every other day about contract language,” he said. “But once we got to the important stuff, (talks) really stopped.”

MANA, which is a division of Freilassing, Germany-based Max Aicher GmbH & Co. KG, has not produced or rolled steel at the Hamilton facility since roughly September 2011, Gerstenberger said.

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