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AK, union to talk today

By Thomas Gnau, Journal Business Writer, E-mail: tgnau@coxohio.com

Representatives of AK Steel Corp. will meet this morning with leaders of the union representing more than 3,000 workers at AK’s largest plant, Middletown Works.

But the meeting may not be the start of talks AK officials have sought. Ed Shelley, president of Armco Employees Independent Federation, said he expects AK officials to present ways the company can remain competitive in what might be the most challenging climate for the American steel industry since the Great Depression.

What follows today’s meeting will be up to AEIF leaders.

“Our board will determine after that if we think we want to move forward with any talks,” Shelley said Wednesday.

AK asked the union earlier this month to begin talks that could reopen the current Middletown collective bargaining agreement. That contract expires on Feb. 28, 2006.

Alan McCoy, AK vice president of public affairs, declined to say what AK officials will tell union representatives today.

But McCoy said the company has issued similar invitations to unions representing workers at its other plants, and some of those talks have started.

Some of AK’s peers, International Steel Group and U.S. Steel most notably, have been able to at least temporarily shed some “legacy” costs — pensions and retiree health care benefits. Contracts allowing that kind of latitude have been negotiated as those companies acquired the assets of bankrupt firms.

“Most of the other steel companies have sat with their employee representatives and worked out some kind of cost reductions going forward,” union consultant Michael Locker said.

While Locker said the AEIF must “consider carefully” such talks, he noted that United Steelworkers of America has negotiated pacts that impose managerial belt-tightening, capping executive pay and controlling manager-worker ratios.

AK is also being sued by Ohio and federal governments for alleged environmental law violations. The company is resisting possible punitive fines from that lawsuit, which could go to trial in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati late this year or early next year.

A Fortune 500 company, AK has more than 4,000 local employees at its plant and corporate headquarters. It has six other plants and about 10,000 workers total in several states.

Published 06.26.03

 

   


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