USW Says U.S. Steel Layoffs Jeopardize Safety

1 September 2016

The United Steelworkers union says U.S. Steel’s layoffs of about 75 employees at Gary Works and demotions of an additional 200 to work gangs raise serious safety concerns.

USW officials say the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, acting on the advice of Chicago-based consultant McKinsey & Co., is seeking to replace full-time maintenance workers with independent contractors at Gary Works. The result is that hundreds of work orders are going unfilled, and no preventative maintenance is getting done at the sprawling plant on Lake Michigan, said USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap.

“Every workplace has work hazards that the employers and employees must be aware of,” Milsap said. “At any given time a workplace accident can happen that can result in very serious injuries and sometimes fatalities. It is the obligation and responsibility of the company to minimize these hazards at much as possible to make the workplace safe. In this steel plant, those risks are much greater. The risk is greater for the employees.”U.S. Steel has declined to comment on the layoffs, which the union has filed a grievance against. The company lost $1.5 billion last year, and has lost money in five out of the last six years.

The steelmaker is following McKinsey’s advise on how to cut costs, but it will result in unsafe working conditions, Millsap said.

“Unfortunately, McKinsey has no experience with what it takes to run a work plant, a steel company and what it takes to protect the employees from harm,” he said.

Maintenance employees do much more than just day-to-day maintenance, Millsap said. They work on projects and make repairs that are often safety related.

“This union is prepared to bargain over the layoffs McKinsey says need to happen,” he said. “How will the maintenance work get done? That’s our question. Specifically the safety work.”

USW Local 1066 President Billy McCall said the union would not allow U.S. Steel to jeopardize safety so a few executives could get richer. U.S. Steel could have asked for the cuts when negotiating a new contract last year.

“The same thing that happened this summer we all know they were

trying to get over on the backs of our members, and the same thing

is happening now,” he said.


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