AK Steel Issues Warn Notices to Temporarily Idle Portions of Ashland Works

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ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) -- AK Steel has issued warn notices to hourly and salary employees at its Ashland, Kentucky Works as it intends to temporarily idle the blast furnace and related steel-making operations, according to a news release.

The company says it's a result of challenging domestic market conditions.

“We are taking this necessary step due to the onslaught of what we believe are unfairly traded imports of carbon steel that have been flooding our shores. These imports have substantially reduced order intake rates, production rates, shipment volumes and selling prices,” said James L. Wainscott, Chairman, President and CEO of AK Steel. “We will continue to closely monitor market conditions and run our overall operations as efficiently as possible to continue to meet our customers’ needs.”

The company says this measure won't interrupt shipments to its customers.

According to the news release, if market conditions do not improve, the company is expecting the idling of the affected portions of the facility will begin in mid-December and could last more than six months.

WSAZ has reached out to the company for comment.

A spokesperson tells WSAZ it's too early to determine how many employees would be affected.

Lisa H. Jester, corporate manager of Communications & Public Relations, says no layoffs are happening at this time, and will not happen until the 60-day period has expired.

Ashland Works produces carbon steel slabs, along with hot dip galvanized and galvannealed coated steels. The plant employs about 940 men and women.

City leadership in Ashland says even if this is a temporary move, it'll undoubtedly have a big negative impact on the local economy in a number of ways.

"We've got to use common sense, and it's going to take some leadership and some real belt tightening," Ashland City Commissioner Kevin Gunderson said.

Blast furnace maintenance worker Larry Maynard says they've been through temporary idling before, and he's not getting too down.

"We'll draw sub-pay and unemployment," Maynard said. "It'll be almost what you draw anyway. A lot of the guys are like, well, we'll take a break. Other people have jobs to go to to make it through. It's nothing new."

SunCoke Energy issued the following statement following the announcement by AK Steel.

“SunCoke supplies coke to AK Steel’s Ashland and Dearborn blast furnace operations from its Haverhill coke plant under a long-term, take-or-pay contract until 2022. Any temporary idling of their facility does not change AK Steel’s obligations. We expect AK Steel will continue to honor our contract and we will work with our customer in supplying coke to their other facilities.”

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