CANTON: Retired Steelworker Daniel Grimsley wishes the best for the 1,800-plus union members working at Timken Co. as the Canton manufacturer prepares to spin off its steel operations by this summer.
But 17-year veteran steel-plant worker Michael Kemp remains skeptical and sometimes fears the worst.
And newly hired Steelworker William Parkison largely is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the upcoming change.
Meanwhile, Joe Hoagland, president these past five years of United Steelworkers Local 1123 Golden Lodge that represents Timken’s unionized workforce, is working with his fellow officers and the Pittsburgh-based union leadership to prepare for a two-Timken future. The new steel company will be called TimkenSteel Corp.; the larger bearings-focused company retains the Timken Co. name.
“We hope there are two successful companies. That’s the best that can happen for everybody,” Hoagland said. “We’re in no way, shape or form, negative to them.”
The union and company will start bargaining spinoff-related contract changes Feb. 18, he said. He doesn’t know how long the talks will take.
What Hoagland does know is that the new TimkenSteel will have the bulk of the Canton unionized workforce, with about 165 Steelworkers at Timken’s local bearings operations. In addition, there are about 6,000 Timken Steelworker retirees and surviving spouses, he said.
There will be no changes in pay or benefits, Hoagland said. He said he cannot say much about the upcoming negotiations other than the union and the $4.3 billion company need to work through such issues as how much pension assets and liabilities each Timken company will have.
The current contract runs through September 2017 and includes successorship language that protects the Steelworkers’ union rights, Hoagland said.
“We are going to end up with two sets of contract books,” he said.
The union has sent out letters to members and retirees about the upcoming spinoff, Hoagland said. In addition, the spinoff is discussed at the union’s twice-monthly meetings at its hall off Harrison Avenue Southwest.
“I have to remind them, ‘We’re not in any trouble financially with this company,’ ” Hoagland said, adding that the union pension is fully funded.
Timken executives late last summer agreed to separate the steel division following intense pressure from its largest shareholder. The company board and top executives initially opposed splitting the company but announced in September that the spinoff appeared to be in the best interests of the company and shareholders.
Timken executives last week said they continue to target a midyear separation and in upcoming weeks expect to file paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission with initial details of the new publicly traded steel company.
Grimsley, 62, of East Canton, said he worked 31 years at Timken, primarily heat-treating bearings. He said he’s not sure what the spinoff will mean but wants the best for the people working in the bearings facilities.
“I’ve always trusted Timken. The stock has always done well,” Grimsley said. “It’s always been one of the businesses in Stark County that has taken care of its people.”
Kemp, 52, of North Canton, said the spinoff appears to be Wall Street manipulation aimed at making a fast dollar. He doesn’t think the spinoff is a good idea and could make the new steel company vulnerable to a takeover.
“They’re putting a pretty good spin on it. They didn’t want to do it, they didn’t want to do it, then they did it,” Kemp said. “The last four, five years, the company has made more money than they’ve ever made.”
Parkison, 24, of Alliance, was hired at Timken’s Harrison steel plant on Sept. 30 — just weeks after Timken’s board voted to spin off the steel division. He works as a mechanic maintenance apprentice.
“The word in the shop is, it isn’t going to affect us much,” Parkison said. “For me coming in, I was kind of worried what it would mean. I haven’t seen significant changes.”
Parkison said he still wonders how the spinoff will affect him and the union.
Hoagland said he isn’t sure the union has all the answers nor identified all the issues yet, either.
“It’s a bit of wonder about what happened between April and September,” Hoagland said. “In April, the company was adamant this was not a good idea. Now, everything is going to be great. ... The bottom line is the split will be effective July 1.”
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com.