BURNS HARBOR, Ind. (AP) -- As many as 2,444 employees at ArcelorMittal's steel plant could be laid off indefinitely in January, the company said.
The company has notified the United Steelworkers and other stakeholders about the possibility of an "indefinite layoff" at the Porter County plant beginning in the second half of January, ArcelorMittal announced Friday.
The recent drop-off in global steel production and the company's previously announced plan to reduce production in North American by 40 percent played into the decision, the company said.
"Potential work force reductions are a direct result of the extraordinary economic environment we are facing, and the company hopes to return workers to their jobs as market conditions warrant," ArcelorMittal said in a statement.
Jim Robinson, director of United Steelworkers District 7, said the union is negotiating with ArcelorMittal to minimize the number of layoffs.
"Any discussion about the ultimate nature of what will happen is premature," Robinson said.
Word of the potential layoffs had spread through the Burns Harbor plant over the past few days, Robinson said.
Union leaders at the international level "certainly knew what was going on," Robinson said. "They see the fact there aren't any orders. We're not making a lot of steel."
The global economic downturn that prompted the cut in steel production calls for action by elected officials, Robinson said.
"They need to step up to the plate and quit worrying about investment bankers and CEOs and start acting on behalf of average, middle-class American workers," Robinson said.
The Burns Harbor plant is located 10 miles east of Gary.