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AK Steel hires replacements, locks union out

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- AK Steel Holding Corp. operated its Middletown Works plant yesterday with salaried and replacement workers after locking out nearly 2,700 union employees.

Both sides said they want to negotiate a deal to replace the one that expired at midnight Tuesday, but the company said the union must accept that the independent steel maker needs to cut labor costs to survive in the increasingly global industry. Union members, picketing outside the plant said they've already made sacrifices and that the company has been antagonistic by bringing in replacement workers.

''We are operating in a manner that we unfortunately must do, under the circumstances," AK Steel spokesman Alan McCoy said.

The company said its last offer would give raises to most workers, freeze the existing pension plan, pass a greater share of healthcare costs to workers, and streamline job classifications so that workers could handle more duties.

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