That grievance is scheduled to be heard by an arbitrator on Friday, Local
6787 President Paul Gipson told the Chesterton Tribune after deadline
In the meantime, one blast furnace is down, another has been banked, and
both the basic oxygen furnace and continuous castor are down as well.
At issue is a new software systems which “to a large degree makes the
steel-making process more efficient,” Gipson said. “There’s no question
So efficient, in any case, that ArcelorMittal has reduced the number of
workers servicing the continuous castor. At one time, as recently as five
years ago, Gipson said, there were five members assigned to the continuous
castor. That number was gradually reduced to threeÑtwo strand techs and a
castor assistantÑand now the company has cut those three to two.
The reduction, however, subsequently prompted 10 Local 6787 members to file
a safety grievance per the collective bargaining agreement, under the terms
of which any member who “thinks a working condition is unsafe may step down
and be re-assigned.”
ArcelorMittal did not, however, re-assign the 10, Gipson said. The company
merely sent them home.
Though Gipson doesn’t question the efficiency of the control software, he is
in some doubt whether it would actually do what the company says it’s
designed to do, should it detect a malfunction or anomaly: that is,
“automatically shut it down.”
“Water and steel don’t mix,” Gipson noted. “A pinhole leak allowing water
into the hot steel would cause an explosion. A hydraulic leak might or might
not. The union’s position is that the company hasn’t given the software a
long enough trial period. It is safe or not to have only two strand techs?
There are so many things that could go wrong. In our opinion, the company
has created an unsafe situation.”
On Friday, an arbitrator selected from a panel in Washington, D.C., will
hear the grievance and make a ruling. “If we win the arbitration, the
company must pay back the 10 workers the money they’ve lost,” Gipson said.
“But the arbitrator’s decision is final and binding,” Gipson emphasized. “If
it goes against us, the members can’t refuse to work.”
On Wednesday, an ArcelorMittal spokesperson told the Tribune that,
though the new automated control system will not result in a reduction of
the workforce, it will reduce the “amount of overtime required to meet