US Steel may be heading for a stand-off in labour talks with the trade union representing workers at its operation in Nanticoke, Ontario, Canada.

The steelmaker is reportedly training salaried, non-union workers to operate its Lake Erie Works, raising speculation that a lockout may be possible if a new labour agreement cannot be reached with the United Steelworkers union (USW) before the current contract expires at midnight on April 15.

The company’s move is a reminder of what happened at the time of the last set of contract negotiations in 2009, when workers were locked out for eight months before the two sides struck a three-year deal.

A news bulletin on the USW Local 8782 website said that the mill notified the union that it would start training salaried, non-union workers to operate the hot-strip mill, including rolling slabs, from March 18.

“The bargaining committee would prefer the company put their efforts into reaching a collective agreement rather than resorting to scare tactics,” the USW bulletin said. “It could lead one to question whether they are serious about reaching an agreement.”

A source close to the negotiations said he was optimistic the integrated steelmaker and the union would work things out, however.

US Steel employs 1,350 people at its Lake Erie production complex, which has capacity to produce 2.8 million tpy of hot rolled coil (HRC), according to the company’s website.

It sells to the automotive, pipe and tube, and service centre sectors, as well as supplying coil to a sister company in Hamilton, Ontario.

The steelmaker has about 1,000 union workers at its plant, according to local media.

One of the blast furnaces at the Lake Erie Works is down this month for a scheduled relining, sources said.

No union representative nor any spokesman for US Steel’s operations in Canada or at its headquarters in Pittsburgh could be reached for comment at the time of publication.

This report was first published by American Metal Market