Provo Steel Plant Lays Off Most of Its Work Force

Provo Steel Plant Lays Off Most of Its Work Force

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Of the 110 workers at the Chicago Bridge & Iron Co.'s steel fabrication plant here, 93 have been laid off because of the cancellation of a contract to build wind towers, the company said.

"Chicago Bridge is now considering whether to temporarily shut down the plant over the holiday period in December, but we've not determined whether that will occur and what the duration of the shutdown is," said company spokesman Bruce Steimle.

"We don't know when that decision will be made. It's too early to say what the future schedule of the plant is because the contract's cancellation happened rather suddenly."

The layoffs Wednesday came almost a year after the company announced a $1 million expansion at its 186,000-square-foot plant and plans to hire an additional 60 people to execute a contract to build 150 wind towers.

Steimle declined to say why the contract was canceled, who the client was or what the value of the contract was.

Since January, the company had added a 23,000-square-foot building to paint the 260-foot-tall towers.

Steimle said the layoffs were based on seniority and affected 93 workers, including journeymen, mechanics, machine operators and welders who were hired for the wind tower project.

Seventeen workers now remain.

"There's regular maintenance of the plant's equipment that'll keep them busy," Steimle said.

Mayor Lewis Billings said he was notified about the layoff but had no details.

Separately, the Provo plant is part of assets disputed in an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2001 against Chicago Bridge to force a breakup of its $84 million merger with Pitt-Des Moines Inc.

Chicago Bridge was accused of violating federal antitrust laws when it acquired in February 2001 the assets of Pitt-Des Moines, including the Provo plant, allegedly to reduce competition. The FTC sought to rescind the merger, contending it eliminates Pitt-Des Moines and may lead to a monopoly in that market by Chicago Bridge.

The companies were direct competitors in the design and manufacture of liquefied nitrogen, oxygen and argon storage tanks, liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas storage tanks and thermal vacuum chambers, which are used for testing satellites.

The FTC issued an order in 2003 requiring the company to preserve Pitt-Des Moines' assets after Chicago Bridge tried that December to shut down the Provo plant ahead of a final resolution of the lawsuit.

The FTC commissioner in January this year ordered Chicago Bridge to split its industrial division into two units and divest itself of one of them to restore competition to a pre-merger state.

The company is appealing, contending it isn't required to divest any assets until it has exhausted all appeals, including taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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