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COLD METAL PRODUCTS Ex-workers study buyout; vigil continues at plant



Published: Tue, August 27, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The union is conducting the vigil to make sure nothing comes out of the plant.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

CAMPBELL -- Former workers at the closed Cold Metal Products plant are exploring an employee buyout of the plant.

John Burnich, vice president of United Steelworkers of America Local 3047, said workers aren't sure how feasible a buyout is but want to investigate.

Union officers are to meet Thursday with officials of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center at Kent State University. The state-funded office helps employees form employee stock ownership plans.

Company officials would welcome working with the union on an ESOP, said Duane Wycoff, Cold Metal vice president of human resources and communications.

They also are working on selling the plant to other companies, he said.

As they wait to see what happens to the plant, former workers are looking for other jobs, he said.

They also are conducting a vigil outside the Wilson Avenue plant 24 hours a day.

"For now, we want to make sure nothing goes out and nothing comes in," Burnich said.

Under a labor contract with the union, any work related to sending out inventory should be done by union members, he said.

Wycoff said an agreement to allow several union members to ship some finished goods out of the plant is nearly complete.

Constant vigil

Former workers also are watching to see if equipment is moved from the plant. Cold Metal closed this plant and one in Indianapolis but kept open a mill in Ottawa, Ohio, and a steel service center in Michigan.

Wycoff said Cold Metal has no plans now to move equipment. It is working on a restructuring plan, which would be presented to bankruptcy court later. The company filed for

Cold Metal has filed for bankruptcy protection, so changes in its operations would have to be approved in court. The filing doesn't affect its Canadian plants.

Burnich said the union intends to stay outside the plant until the situation becomes clearer.

Former workers are lined up for the next few weeks, he said.

The union has lawyers who are looking into the case, including trying to get money for the former workers.

The union says its contract called for a 90-day notice of a plant closing, and federal law requires 60 days' notice for plant closings.

Cold Metal officials could not be reached for comments.

Plans for new equipment

Burnich said the plant closing was surprising because the company was preparing to install equipment. The company said late last year it was moving $3 million worth of equipment into the plant. Some of it was to be new equipment and some from a closed Connecticut plant.

Cold Metal said the equipment would give the plant a higher production rate and allow it to give the steel more uniform properties.

In filing for bankruptcy protection, the company said orders have been down because of the slow economy and the increasing cost of buying steel.

The company processes steel for saw blades, bearings and other products. The local plant employed 116.

Cold Metal still has an office on South Avenue in Boardman, but it moved its headquarters from Boardman to Sewickley, Pa., two years ago.

shilling@vindy.com




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