DECEMBER 15, 2015
AK Steel Company leaders blame cuts on rising levels of unfairly traded steel
By Chelsea Livingston
Layoffs at AK Steel’s manufacturing plant in Ashland, Ky., are being called devastating for the community by the president of the union representing hourly steel workers.
As of now, the union leader says plans are moving forward to temporarily idle the blast furnace and related steelmaking operations at Ashland Works. Company leaders blame cuts on rising levels of unfairly traded steel imports to the United States that have hurt steel sales and prices.
Layoffs are set to begin in Ashland the week of Christmas, said Scott Conley, president of United Steelworkers Local 1865. Approximately 615 to 620 people are expected to be laid off, Conley said.
“Everybody should be out of the plant by the 31st of December in the hot end,” Conley said. “They have not given us a guaranteed number of how many people will be left.”
The entire steel plant will not shut down; Ashland Works employs a total about 940 workers and some operations will keep running, company spokeswoman Lisa Jester previously said at the time intentions to idle the blast furnace were first announced in October.
In October, AK Steel warned that if market conditions did not improve, the idling of the affected portions of the facility would begin in mid-December and could last more than six months.
AK Steel is one of the largest employers in the Ashland area, Conley said.
“Everybody’s got to go seek other work because there’s no call back date,” he said. “They’re going to lose a lot of experienced personnel.”
“There’s no jobs around here. It’s pretty devastating for around this area.”
Worldwide steel production grew about 46 percent from 2005 to 1.8 billion tons in 2014, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. During that time, steel imports into the U.S. have risen from 32.1 million net tons in 2005 to 44.3 million in 2014, an increase of 38 percent, according to the steel institute.
Market conditions mean AK Steel is cutting costs and it will have to cut costs further next year, President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman James Wainscott told investor analysts in October.
Meanwhile, even though layoffs are due to begin in Kentucky, AK Steel has been hiring in Middletown. For example, a pair of job fairs were held for Middletown Works in a single week in August.
West Chester Twp.-based AK Steel Holding Corp. makes carbon, stainless and electrical steel products. AK Steel employs approximately 2,400 full-time workers in Butler County between headquarter operations and the Middletown Works steel plant.
Altogether, AK Steel operates eight steel plants. Presently, facilities in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and West Virginia employ more than 8,000 altogether and produce flat-rolled carbon, electrical and stainless steels used by the automotive, appliance, construction and manufacturing markets.