USW: Mill to restart soon

By Don Shilling

About 1,200 workers have been laid off from Severstal.

WARREN — Severstal plans to restart its Warren steel mill before the end of March, a union official said.

The steelmaker has told officials of the United Steelworkers of America that it has enough demand to restart the mill, said Tony Montana, a spokesman at the union’s Pittsburgh headquarters.

He had no details on how the mill would be brought back online or when workers would be recalled.

Severstal isn’t filling in the details. Bette Kovach, a company spokeswoman, said the company isn’t reporting any change in the mill’s status.

Officials with Steelworkers Local 1375 in Warren could not be reached to comment.

About 1,200 hourly and salaried workers are laid off from the mill, many of which have been off the job for a year.

Severstal shut down the mill’s blast furnace for maintenance in October 2008 but didn’t restart it because of economic and credit crises that engulfed the nation that fall.

While the mill stopped making steel, its finishing operations continued until the early part of 2009, when those operations were idled as well.

Severstal, which is based in Russia, acquired the Warren mill in 2008. The steelmaker said at the time that it was committed to the mill, which used to be known as WCI Steel, and planned to spend $100 million on upgrade its operations.

Also, Montana said that ArcelorMittal is about to restart operations at its coke plant, which is located near the Severstal mill.

He said the restarting of the Severstal and ArcelorMittal operations don’t appear to be related, however.

ArcelorMittal, another steelmaker, is recalling workers after the company and union settled a grievance that included providing back pay to workers, Montana said. He didn’t have any other details.

The coke plant was idled in July of last year. It had about 125 workers.

The plant creates coke by baking different types of coal in ovens. Coke, iron ore and limestone are used in blast furnaces at steel mills to create molten iron.

An ArcelorMittal representative declined to comment on the union’s report.

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