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U.S. Steel locks out union at Lake Erie Works

Keywords: Tags  U.S. Steel, United Steelworkers union, Lake Erie Works, lockout, steel, steel prices, Charles Bradford, Bradford Research Catherine Ngai

WASHINGTON — U.S. Steel Corp. has locked out the nearly 1,000 unionized workers at its Lake Erie Works in Nanticoke, Ontario.

The lockout began at 9 a.m. April 28, according to a bulletin on the United Steelworkers union’s website.

While the impact on operations is unclear, the lockout comes as the U.S. sheet market faces overcapacity issues.

Market participants have said that if output were taken offline, it wouldn’t be enough to change the capacity situation. However, there could be a short-term impact, they added, noting that the lockout could affect U.S. Steel’s Hamilton Works in Ontario, which doesn’t have a hot-strip mill.

The status of the hot-strip pickling line was also unclear April 29, but at least one industry source said it was represented by a different union and wouldn’t be affected by the lockout.

Neither union officials nor U.S. Steel could be reached for comment.

"Three days ago, U.S. Steel sent the local union ... a notice that they would lock out employees at 9 a.m. on April 28. We believe that this is both an indication that the company doesn’t need the output of this plate over the short term, but also believe that this will be helpful to the market and may help flat-rolled steel pricing in some minor way," Charles Bradford, president of Bradford Research Inc., New York, said in a note.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker gave its 72-hour lockout notice to the union in a letter dated April 25 after contract negotiations between the two parties failed (, April 25). The previous three-year contract officially expired April 16.

Talks between the parties heated up in recent weeks after the union claimed the company was training salaried, nonunion workers to operate its hot-strip mill, including rolling slabs, at the Canadian complex, raising speculation that operations could continue in the event of a lockout (, April 8).

An estimated 980 Lake Erie workers are members of USW Local 8782, representing some 70 percent of the 1,350 total workers at the facility. Lake Erie Works, which is one of North America’s newest integrated facilities, manufactures about 2.25 million tonnes of slabs and 3 million tonnes of hot-rolled coils, according to its website.

A lockout during the last set of contract negotiations at Lake Erie Works lasted eight months before the two sides reached a three-year deal (, April 16, 2010).

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