Midterm Case One
Inland Steel Coal Company: The Sesser Coal Mine
Case Study Analysis:
1. 50 points:
Review the situation that led to the survey. What are the major employee
relations problems at the mine? What aspects of the immediate scene (miners and mining
in Sesser) are important? What aspects of the corporate scene (Inland’s integrated
operations) are pertinent? What factors involving the industry at this time are relevant?
The problem seemed to stem from the Sesser mine falling short of the tonnage it was
expected to produce. After a steady rise in its production, it saw three years of a
production drop. The problems with decreased production at Sesser spilled over into
Indiana Harbor Works. To make up for this difference, Inland had to purchase inferior
quality coke, which in turn decreased the production of the blast furnaces and added to
their expenses. This coupled with changing mining conditions and governmental
regulations resulted in significant losses in production. The situation was complicated by
labor problems and wildcat strikes.
As a result, Sesser’s management wanted to implement a program to correct problems
with both employee relations and operations. Their main objectives included developing
training programs, operating manuals, and new positions. They also wished to know if
labor problems, including strikes, absenteeism, and productivity were an industry-level
problem, or if they could be dealt with locally. They hired the outside consulting firm of
The major problems with employee relations at the mine included wildcat strikes,
grievances, absenteeism, and declining productivity. The miners’ health and safety were
also concerns as was teamwork.
The mining scene at Sesser had expanded and as a result, communication became more
difficult between employees, foremen, and managers. Managers felt that they were
overextended, and they were not always sure of the conditions in the mine despite their
being responsible for them. Their area of supervision may have consisted of up to seven
miles of mine and up to thirty miners. Their communication was limited by the unreliable
mine phones during working hours, so often they had to exchange information at the end
of the shift. Unfortunately, even then, communication was limited by the noise of the
mine, and it occurred in the cold, near darkness.
Management was often quick to intervene when information was not conveyed in a timely
manner, and this led to frustration of the foremen in particular. They found the mining
operation lacking in coordination, as it functioned as if there were three separate mines.
They also felt as if they had no authority to make decisions.