Wednesday, December 11, 2002

AK Steel ends 3-year lockout

By Mark Williams
The Associated Press

MANSFIELD - AK Steel said Tuesday it has ended its three-year lockout of union workers at its Mansfield Works plant, one of the country's longest labor disputes.

The end to AK Steel's 39-month lockout at its Mansfield plant will allow all sides to claim something.

The company: A bitter, time-consuming battle will be put to rest. The company has said the operation has been profitable, recently setting a production record, with temporary, contract workers.

The union: It will claim it was able to stand up against the company on behalf of its members. How many and when they'll be recalled is unclear.

"The lockout is over, and we look forward to the process of welcoming our returning workforce to the operation of AK Steel's world class Mansfield Works," Richard Wardrop, chairman, president and chief of Middletown-based AK Steel, said in a statement.

The company said it notified the United Steelworkers union representing 620 locked-out workers that it will begin a recall of hourly production and maintenance workers.

About 30 workers will be recalled initially. The company said normally scheduled plant operations would continue during the recall.

The workers were locked out Sept. 1, 1999, by the plant's former owner, Armco Inc., when their contract expired. AK Steel acquired Armco and has continued to operate the plant with about 250 temporary replacement workers.

According to steelworkers spokesman Marco Trbovich, the primary sticking point had been maintaining the union's right to defend workers that AK Steel wants to dismiss over allegations that they were involved in violence at the plant during the lockout. He said it appears that the union will be allowed to defend those workers.

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