U.S. Steel, United Steelworkers have tentative agreement

Hamilton steelworkers could be back to work after 11-month lockout at former Stelco mill

October 12, 2011   by The Canadian Press

HAMILTON—A tentative agreement has been reached in the 11-month lockout at US Steel’s Hamilton mill, the former Stelco Inc. operations.

The United Steelworkers union says details of the agreement will be presented to the 900 union members at a meeting Wednesday night.

Steelworkers Local 1005—which represents the 900 workers—and the company reached a deal on Monday. A date for a vote on the agreement has not been set.

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel bought Stelco in 2007 for $1.9 billion amid a wave of takeovers that put almost all of Canada’s steelmakers in foreign hands.

Workers were locked out last November in a dispute over the company’s demand for concessions on pensions, the cost of living formula and benefits.

The last time there was a strike at the Hamilton steel plant was a generation ago, when it was owned by Stelco.

Dofasco was taken over by ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steel company while Algoma Steel was acquired by India’s Essar group.

The Canadian dollar has also climbed to near parity with the U.S. dollar, raising the relative cost of making steel in Canada compared with U.S. Steel’s operations in Pennsylvania.

U.S. Steel ruffled feathers in Ottawa when it shut down most of its Canadian operations, including the Hamilton plant and another in Nanticoke, Ont., during the last recession, breaking investment and production promises it had made to get regulatory approval for the Stelco takeover.

The company admitted to breaking those promises, but says layoffs at its Ontario locations were necessary to cut costs during the 2008-2009 recession.

The federal government sued the company and the case is winding its way through the courts.

If Ottawa finds the steelmaker guilty of illegally breaking promises when it bought Stelco, it could face a multimillion-dollar fine or be forced to sell its Canadian assets.