October 10, 2008
Steelworkers Await Word on Duration of Layoffs
WHEELING - While Severstal North America decides how to weather what is becoming a global economic downturn, hundreds of steelworkers at several Ohio Valley plants will wait to see how long their layoffs last.
Wheeling Corrugating, a producer of deck and roofing products, is one unit that will keep working, said John Saunders, contract coordinator for the United Steelworkers. It's busy filling orders for the storm-socked Gulf Coast.
Neither the union nor the company would commit to numbers quantifying the layoffs Thursday. The union, which announced the cutbacks late Wednesday, said many workers will transfer between plants.
Severstal spokesman Dennis Halpin said the company is re- examining short-term strategic plans to balance its production with customers' orders, but nothing has been finalized.
Saunders said a strong steel business requires strong auto and housing industries, as well as companies investing in capital improvements.
"Those three components are all at all-time lows," he said. "The workers here have done everything right, but we cannot weather the tremendous financial crisis that the nation is under."
Severstal, which bought the former Esmark Inc. properties in August, has already extended the shutdown of its ironmaking blast furnace in Steubenville, Ohio, along with its basic oxygen furnace, which converts iron to steel. Both had been set to come back online in late September.
The Follansbee coke plant, however, is still operating, supplying other steelmaking units in Severstal and stockpiling coke.
The electric arc furnace at Mingo Junction, Ohio, and the galvanizing line at Martins Ferry, Ohio, will operate sporadically, Saunders said. The mill in Yorkville, Ohio, which supplies steel plate, is "holding its own" and will be untouched by layoffs.
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