Union representatives for workers at the AK Steel plant in Ashland say they want some equipment upgrades and a larger work force as contract negotiations began this week.
Among the union demands include making improvements to a blast furnace union representatives say is long overdue. The blast furnace should be relined with brick every five to seven years but hasnâ€™t been done at the Ashland plant for 21 years, said Pat Roberts, treasurer of USWA Local 1865.
AK Steel officials say the plant is safe, and the company is upgrading equipment.
The current climate in the steel industry has raised concerns with both the union and company. Many of the sites where AK Steelâ€™s competitors closed in the past five years were reopened with much smaller work forces and costs, McCoy said. This has made the steel industry very competitive, he said.
“Those facilities have an employment cost advantage over AK Steel, some by $40 per ton,” McCoy said.