Jillian Engel

Approximately 200-300 workers’ schedules have been cut to 32 hours per week at the Middletown Works facility.

AK Steel officials announced last week that the company will cut back scheduled hours for hundreds of workers at the Middletown Works facility.

The steel manufacturing company will also temporarily idle some workers’ schedules the week of Thanksgiving, due to fewer production orders.

Between 200-300 workers’ schedules have been cut to 32 hours per week at Middletown Works, AK Steel spokesman Alan McCoy said.

The announcement was made following a news release Nov. 11 that the steel company is temporarily idling about 600 workers at its Ashland, Ky. plant and about 400 workers at its Mansfield, Ohio plant from mid-November until early to mid-January.

Officials also announced late last week that about 35, out of a total of 450, were laid off at its Coshocton Works plant in northeast Ohio.

The Nov. 11 news release said the company is experiencing lower demand for its products due to the recent economic downturn.

Although the economic situation for automotive construction and appliance manufacturing is not looking up, the temporary layoffs are not expected to be permanent, said D. Scott Rich, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local Lodge 1943, which represents AK Steel’s Middletown workers.

“I’ve been assured they’ll be back the next week (after Thanksgiving), but we certainly need better economic news,” Rich said. “(We’re being) cautious right now. The future is unclear.”

With steel production slowing down globally and nationally, Rich said the union is not immune to what may happen in the near economic future. But because AK Steel provides an employment security guarantee for some of its workers, Rich said they are better off than other steel manufacturers throughout the nation.

“When we compare ourselves to other steel companies, generally we feel fortunate that it’s not worse,” Rich said. “We do have roughly 1,200 of our workers who are on an employment security guarantee for 40 hours a week. That gives some level of security that other manufacturing companies don’t give.”

According to Rich, the IAM union and AK Steel are working together to shift workers’ jobs within the company to departments that aren’t as slow, as well as working to give employees jobs the company usually fills with outside contractors.

“We’re being very flexible with the workforce,” he said.

Rich said that because Middletown Works manufactures electrical steel, that plant won’t be hit as hard with layoffs than the other six AK Steel facilities.

AK Steel will continue to operate its facilities as safely and efficiently as possible in hopes that the economy will turn back around, McCoy said.

“(We) hope that consumers will return to the market place, credit will be freed up and phases of the economy will begin to recover,” McCoy said.