HAMILTON, Ont.—Southern Ontario steel producer Stelco is a major step closer to emerging from creditor protection and ending a troubled 10 years under American producer U.S. Steel.
Union members at the company’s Hamilton and Nanticoke, Ont. plants have ratified new collective agreements, clearing the last major obstacle to U.S. holding company Bedrock Industries Group LLC acquiring the century-old steel manufacturer.
“These collective agreements are not perfect, however, our members have decided they are the best-possible option in a fundamentally unfair system that does not prioritize the interests of workers, pensioners and communities,” said Marty Warren, the Ontario director of the United Steelworkers.
Close to 90 per cent of the members of Local 8782 in Nanticoke backed a new collective agreement late last week, while 64 per cent of the approximately 500 union workers at Stelco’s Hamilton plant voted in support of a new deal June 6.
“This has been a difficult and challenging process for thousands of workers and pensioners,” Warren added. “While these agreements represent a step forward, there are still hurdles to overcome before Stelco’s restructuring is completed.”
The USW says the new contracts will maintain wages, benefits and pensions for Stelco workers in both southern Ontario cities.
The agreement, however, falls short of securing full pensions for retirees at the company’s Hamilton Works—a sticking point throughout the company’s three years shielded from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). The union said health benefits will be restored to 800 pensioners at from the Nanticoke plant, but 15,000 pensioners and their dependents from Hamilton’s Local 1005 will only see a partial reinstatement of their benefits.
Bedrock agreed to buy Stelco from U.S. Steel last year and asked the Ontario court overseeing it to approve the deal shortly after.
The new USW agreement was the last key requirement in the restructuring process.