NKY Steel Mill Undergoes Fourth Round Of Layoffs This Year

3 May 2016

A Wilder steel mill that serves the energy industry announced its fourth round of worker layoffs this year. Yet union representatives say as oil prices increase, so do work orders, and that may stave off most of the layoffs.

TMK Ipsco announced plans to lay off 113 workers in June, including various department supervisors, the labor relations manager and an analyst, according to Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notices filed with the Kentucky Career Center last week. Nine of the layoffs are permanent while the other 104 are expected to be temporary.

The temporary layoffs mostly affect technicians and machine operators, according to the WARN documents.

In January, officials at the steel mill announced plans to lay off 126 employees, although the job cuts were not permanent. Company officials were unavailable for comment about the latest round of layoffs, although they’ve said previously that declining crude oil exploration and increasing foreign imports of steel are debilitating the business.

Last year, TMK Ipsco’s workforce of 320 workers faced layoffs in July. Again, those layoffs were not permanent

Despite plans to shed hundreds of jobs, workers say improving economic conditions are giving them hope. Oil prices have steadily increased, when OPEC crude-oil production surged by 484,000 barrels to 33.2 million a day in April, according to a Bloomberg survey released last week.

"Things are starting to improve – we're working one crew of about 60 people for the rest of the year," said Ray Rogg, head of the United Steelworkers Local 1870. "We go from hardly working to working too much, which is better than it's been in the past," he said.

The company, with annual revenues of $1.7 billion in 2014, produces high-frequency electric resistant welding (ERW) process steel pipes used in oil and gas extraction and transmission at the sprawling Wilder mill alongside the Licking River.

Company and union officials blame the layoffs on the recent drop-off in the profits of the oil and gas industry, as well as trade agreements that allow the import of cheaper ERW steel from China and South Korea.

The company closed steel mills in Pennsylvania and Iowa last year.

TMK Ipsco is the American division of Russia's TMK. It was formed June 2008 when TMK purchased 10 pipe-manufacturing facilities from SSAB, a Swedish steel company that had acquired Chicago-based Ipsco in 2007.

Much of TMK Ipsco's current production capacity comes from the company's 2006 acquisition of Newport-based NS Group Inc., a producer of seamless and welded pipe. The acquisition brought together welded pipe manufacturing and finishing operations in Wilder, as the Newport plant was closed.

In 2014, the company announced plans to expand the Wilder facility with a $19.8 million development of the company's first steel coating facility. The state of Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority agreed to give the company $650,000 in tax credits over 10 years. But the project, which would have added 40 jobs, was put on hold when crude oil prices wobbled downward.

In fact, shortly after the expansion was announced, TMK cut hours at Wilder and two other U.S. mills by 30 percent.


Source : cincinnati.com