U.S. Steel plans to close two plants affecting 545 workers |
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U.S. Steel plans to close two plants affecting 545 workers

U.S. Steel Corp. plans to close two aging coke-making units and a tin mill that makes sheet for food cans at plants in two states, affecting 545 workers.

The closings are the latest to be announced by the Downtown-based steelmaker as it “moves through its Carnegie Way assessment of all our operations,” said spokeswoman Courtney Boone.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Steel said it will shut down two more oil and natural gas pipe plants and lay off 756 workers. In August, it closed pipe plants in McKeesport and Bellville, Texas, affecting 260 workers.

CEO Mario Longhi has moved to restore confidence and return to consistent profitability. He has saved $1 billion under the Carnegie Way initiative to cut costs and by halting an iron ore expansion project in Minnesota. The company also has relinquished control of its money-losing Canadian unit.

The company said two coke-oven batteries its Granite City Works in Illinois are more than 30 years old and their age played a part in their planned closing. Boone said the company anticipates they will be closed by March 22, affecting 176 workers.

U.S. Steel officials met with workers at the Granite City plant, and said it would meet with their union in coming weeks about the decision. A blast furnace and flat-rolled sheet mill there remain in operation, she said.

Dan Simmons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1899 in Granite City, told union members that negotiations will begin soon. “Our intent is to do everything feasible to lessen (the impact on) those negatively affected by this unfortunate development.”

The company also notified workers that it plans to close its East Chicago tin mill plant, which is part of its Gary Works in Gary, Ind. Boone said that decision is a result of cheaper, imported tin-mill products that have “dramatically affected our business.”

The East Chicago closing would affect 369 workers, Boone said. Union leaders could not be reached.

Analyst Charles Bradford in New York said industry speculation is that steel producers will close capacity because the price of steel has been weak. Hot-rolled coil this week hit a 12-month low of $591 a ton compared with $700 a ton a year ago, according to The Steel Index.

Imports of tin plate increased 30 percent in 2014 compared with the previous year, according to industry figures. U.S. Steel is the largest domestic producer, Bradford said, with 45 percent of the market. “The tin plate business in the U.S. has been shrinking,” he said. Production was down 5.7 percent in the first 11 months of 2014 compared with an overall 2.8 percent increase in steel production, he said.

John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or [email protected].

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