TORONTO – For the second time in a week, United Steelworkers (USW) leaders are calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to act immediately to 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, which directly and indirectly sustains over 100,000 jobs and tens of thousands of pensioners.
“Will this government continue its predecessor’s record of neglecting our industrial and manufacturing base, or will it take meaningful action to stand up for thousands of families whose jobs and pensions are at stake?” Neumann asked.
“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.
The crisis in the domestic steel sector worsened this week as Essar Steel Algoma Inc. filed for creditor protection. Essar Algoma 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 U.S. Steel Canada as the second major steel producer in Ontario that is under court-supervised creditor protection. U.S. Steel Canada, which employs nearly 2,000 workers in Ontario, recently eliminated vital health benefits and prescription drug coverage for some 20,000 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.
“We need Justin Trudeau to deliver on his promise of stimulating the economy and supporting fair trade,” Da Prat said.
“Everyone in our union, at all levels, will do everything we can to defend the interests of our members and pensioners throughout this restructuring process,” said Lisa Dale, President of USW Local 2724, which represents salaried employees at Essar Algoma.
“But we need our federal and provincial governments to be on our side. Our entire community is counting on the governments they elected to fulfill their promises that they would support decent, middle-class jobs,” Dale said.
“We need those promises to be honoured. We need an action plan and a strategy that will help ensure the sustainability of our industry, which provides economic benefits to our entire country.”