- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

GRANITE CITY, Ill. (AP) - U.S. Steel says it’s temporarily idling its plant in Granite City, putting 2,080 employees out of work.

The Pittsburgh-based company made the announcement Wednesday, saying it is consolidating its North American flat-rolled operations to match customer demands.

U.S. Steel said in a statement that it will issue affected workers notices under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

A drop in oil prices has hit U.S. Steel hard, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Company spokeswoman Courtney Boone said the Granite City plant is the primary flat-rolled material supplier to the company’s Texas-based Lone Star Tubular operations, which makes tubes and pipes for the oil and gas industry.

The layoffs are effective May 28, Boone said. It’s not known how long they will last.

“It’s based upon market conditions,” she said.

Earlier this year U.S. Steel said it would it would close two coke ovens in Granite City and cut 176 jobs. A company spokeswoman said the ovens were more than 30 years old and not efficient.

Dave Dowling, a United Steelworkers director in Granite City, told the Belleville News-Democrat that the latest U.S. Steel announcement was a “complete surprise” to workers.

“We’re aware and have been aware for quite a while that orders for our product have been declining, particularly in our pipe and tube plants,” Dowling said. “We knew the company was taking steps in response to both Granite City and other locations, but we were not expecting this announcement at all.”

In a statement, United Steelworkers International Vice President Tom Conway said the layoffs are “a result of the continuing effect of a surge of unfairly traded, record-level imports.”

The Granite City plant was completely idled for six months beginning December 2008. Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer said another closing would have a “domino effect” locally, with several other businesses tied to the steel industry.

“We have food banks that we need to pay attention to,” Hagnauer said. “The last time, there was a 10-fold increase in people in line.”

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