Union says ongoing problems at Essar Algoma, US Steel threatening up to 100,000 industry jobs.
TORONTO — United Steelworkers (USW) leaders are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to act and defend over 100,000 workers and pensioners threatened by a deepening steel industry crisis.
“The time for real action is now,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann, who last week sent an open letter to Trudeau, urgently requesting a meeting to discuss measures to support Canada’s steel industry.
USW says the crisis in the domestic steel sector worsened this week as Essar Steel Algoma Inc. filed for creditor protection. The company employs nearly 3,000 people in Sault Ste. Marie and an estimated 15,000 other jobs in the city depend directly or indirectly on the company.
Essar Algoma has joined US Steel Canada as the second major steel producer in Ontario that is under court-supervised creditor protection. US Steel Canada, which employs nearly 2,000 workers in Ontario, recently eliminated vital health benefits and prescription drug coverage for some 20,000 pensioners.
“European governments are committing to take significant, immediate action to support their steel sector and to counter the dumping of cheap, subsidized steel into their markets,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.
“We need a similar response. Canadian workers and pensioners are asking – Where are our governments? Why are they not defending our jobs and our communities?” Warren said.
Warren and Neumann also co-signed an open letter last week to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, demanding immediate action to support the province’s steel industry, workers and pensioners.
“Over the years, our governments told us that, with globalization we had to become more competitive, more efficient, that we had to think outside the box – and we’ve done that,” said Mike Da Prat, president of USW Local 2251, which represents hourly workers at Essar Steel Algoma.
“But we also need fair trade rules because we have fixed costs for health and safety, for environmental protection, etc. Our governments continue to allow the dumping of cheap steel from countries that neglect health and safety, that pollute the environment and that violate human rights in their workplaces. Justin Trudeau must deliver on his promise of stimulating the economy and supporting fair trade.”