NEW YORK U.S. Steel Corp. reportedly is training salaried, non-union workers to operate its Lake Erie Works in Nanticoke, Ontario, raising speculation that a lockout may be possible if a new labor agreement cannot be reached with the United Steelworkers union before the current contract expires at midnight April 15.
The move is a reminder of the last set of contract negotiations in 2009, when workers were locked out for eight months before the two sides struck a three-year deal (amm.com, April 16, 2010).
According to a news bulletin on the USW Local 8782 website, the mill notified the union that effective March 18 it would start training salaried, non-union workers to operate the hot-strip mill, including rolling slabs. "The bargaining committee would prefer the company put their efforts into reaching a collective agreement rather than resorting to scare tactics," the USW bulletin said. "It could lead one to question whether they are serious about reaching an agreement."
A source close to the negotiations, however, said he was optimistic the integrated steelmaker and the union would work things out.
U.S. Steel employs some 1,350 people at its Lake Erie production complex, which has an annual capacity of some 2.8 million tonnes of hot-rolled coil, according to the companys website. It sells to the automotive, pipe and tube, and service center sectors, as well as supplies coil to a sister company in Hamilton, Ontario. The steelmaker has approximately 1,000 union workers at its plant, according to local media.
One of the blast furnaces at Lake Erie Works is down this month for a scheduled reline, sources said.
Union representatives and spokesmen for U.S. Steels operations in Canada and U.S. Steels headquarters in Pittsburgh could not be reached for comment.
Lisa Gordon, Pittsburgh, contributed to this story.