ArcelorMittal plans to close several finishing lines at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago as part of a restructuring effort to make its North American operations leaner and more efficient.
The Luxembourg-based steelmaker reached a tentative agreement with the United Steelworkers union to idle the 84-inch Hot Strip Mill at Indiana Harbor West, the No. 1 aluminizing line at Indiana Harbor West, the No. 2 Steel Shop at Indiana Harbor East, and the No. 5 Continuous Galvanize Line at Indiana Harbor East, according to a union contract summary.
Hundreds of workers would be displaced, but the USW says the company agreed to no layoffs. Affected workers would be able to transfer to other positions in Northwest Indiana or Riverdale.
Steelworkers still must approve the tentative contract, though ArcelorMittal already went ahead and idled some of the finishing lines.
"We are unable to comment on specific details related to the tentative labor agreement until it has been ratified by our USW-represented employees," ArcelorMittal spokesman William Steers said.
About 300 workers were displaced when the steelmaker idled the 84-inch Hot Strip Mill, and another 80 when it idled the No. 1 aluminizing line in February. No timetable was immediately available for when the No. 2 Steel Shop or the No. 5 Continuous Galvanize Line would be shut down.
ArcelorMittal lost $7.9 billion last year during the global import crisis, when around 30 percent of the nation's steelmaking capacity wasn't being used. It hoped to improve capacity utilization and lower its fixed operating expenses by closing some finishing lines, the way it previously did when restructuring its European operations a few years ago.
The union got the company to agree to invest $2.5 billion in its North American operations, including more than $200 million to upgrade the 80-inch Hot Strip Mill and casters at Indiana Harbor. The USW wanted the job security that comes with a big capital investment, and ArcelorMittal wanted to make its remaining lines more productive.
As part of the tentative deal, ArcelorMittal plans to upgrade the No. 3 Steel Shop at Indiana Harbor West by adding a new caster, increasing steelmaking at the No. 4 Steel Shop at Indiana Harbor East, and restarting the No. 2 Continuous Galvanize Line.
The steelmaker employs more than 5,000 workers at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, which is the former Inland Steel mill on the east side and the former Youngstown/J & L/LTV Steel, ISG mill on the west side.
The massive steelmaking complex in East Chicago has numerous finishing lines, including five continuous casting machines, a slab dimensioning facility, an 80-inch hot strip mill, a pickling line, a five-stand tandem mill, batch annealing, continuous annealing, a temper mill, and a hot-dip galvanizing line.