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Union, ArcelorMittal in Burns Harbor dispute

Keywords: Tags  ArcelorMittal, Burns Harbor, safety, United Steelworkers union, USW, Thorsten Schier

NEW YORK — ArcelorMittal USA LLC is involved in a dispute about workplace safety with "a small number of union workers" at its Burns Harbor facility in Indiana, a company spokeswoman told AMM in an e-mail.

The dispute arose after ArcelorMittal, the Chicago-based subsidiary of Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal SA, upgraded control systems and process automation at the plant’s basic oxygen furnace and continuous caster in a push to improve safety, the spokeswoman said April 24.

The upgrades resulted in "many manual functions previously done by the work force now being controlled and completed by the process computer and have replaced the need for human intervention during non-normal casting conditions," the company spokeswoman said, adding that this "will not result in work force reductions" but "will reduce the amount of overtime required to meet demand."

But while the company contends the upgrades will improve both operational efficiency and workplace safety, "a small number of union workers have disputed these improvements," the spokeswoman said. As a result, a dispute resolution process set out in the plant’s basic labor agreement is under way.

The spokeswoman did not respond to AMM’s request for more information about a possible impact on production at the plant, but local media reported that 10 workers at the plant’s continuous caster walked off the job April 21 due to safety concerns surrounding the new controls and automation, resulting in a production slowdown throughout the steelworks.

"ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor is working closely with the United Steelworkers (union) to resolve the issue," the spokeswoman added. Officials for USW Local 6787, which represents workers at the plant, could not be reached for comment.

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