Esmark Sits Down to Talk With Union

YORKVILLE – United Steelworkers Union Local 1223 went to the bargaining table Monday with Esmark Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Bouchard, who on Friday closed on a $6.5 million deal that brought the idled Yorkville plant into his corporate stable along with a 50 percent ownership stake in Ohio Coatings Co. with South Korea’s TCC Steel.

A tentative labor agreement is one of the last hurdles to be cleared in Bouchard’s plan to restore the Yorkville plant’s operation. Last Friday, Bouchard indicated a tentative agreement had been reached with the USW. However, that document is now being referred to as a “term sheet” signed by USW District 1 Director Dave McCall.

Bouchard has said getting a ratified agreement is key to getting the cold-rolled mill back in business by the beginning of 2013. At a press conference Friday celebrating the acquisition, Bouchard repeatedly referred to the knowledge base of the employees and the need for them to be invested in bringing it back online.

He’s said he will be spending an additional $15 million to $20 million to get the plant up and running and said they will be looking at ways to better control traditional costs, like shipping. The plant’s location on the Ohio River makes using barges to move materials a more sensible transportation option. Discussions on more cost-effective ways to utilize naturally available minerals and gas on the property also have been held.

He said that since Esmark has a large energy development component within its corporate structure, which includes drilling and sales resources, it would not be surprising to see those resources being put to work in a way that would positively impact the Yorkville plant’s bottom line, he said.

Bouchard also indicated personnel from his Pittsburgh office already are working to establish basic human resource needs for the plant’s work force.

Both the Yorkville plant and Ohio Coatings Co. were acquired from bankrupt RG Steel, which also reached a tentative agreement last week to sell its idled Beech Bottom plant to a company identified only as State Route 2 LLC, a West Virginia limited liability company.

State Route 2 LLC has offered $2.1 million for the property, minus any back taxes, for the equipment and land.

Under bankruptcy court rules, others interested in the property have just 14 days to submit “higher or better” offers for the property.