Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

November 11, 2008

'Massive' layoff at AK Steel

Ashland — The national economic crisis has hit home in a major way.

AK Steel announced on Tuesday that it was planning massive layoffs at its Ashland steel mill and coke plant, and that its local steel-making operations would be shut down for an indefinite period.

In a news release announcing the shutdown, AK Steel said the closure was “due to the recent unanticipated and major downturn in the economy, which has resulted in sharply lower demand for some of the company’s products.”

The Ashland Works’ blast furnace, casting and coating operations will be idled later this month, the company said. Mike Hewlett, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 1865, which represents hourly workers at the plant, said the union had been told the shutdown process would begin by the end of next week.

The precise number of workers who will be affected was not known Tuesday. However, Hewlett said it was his understanding that between 600 and 650 of the roughly 700 hourly employees of the West Works would be furloughed.

Union leaders were not told when — or if — the plant might be restarted, Hewlett said. However, the company said that based on “currently foreseeable market conditions,” the facility will be mothballed until early to mid-January.

“We remain hopeful that we will be able to return our dedicated and hard-working employees to their jobs as swiftly as possible,” said James L. Wainscott, chairman, president and chief executive officer of AK Steel. “Of course, that depends entirely on credit availability and consumer confidence, which are at the heart of this serious economic downtown.”

AK Steel’s West Works and coke plant employ about 1,100 hourly and salaried workers. About 275 work at the coke plant, which the company said would remain in operation, but at a “reduced level.”

The company said the blast furnace at the West Works would be maintained at “hot-idle” status. A skeleton crew of hourly and salaried employees will be kept on to maintain the idled operations in preparation for a restart, the company said.

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