USS Lost Extension For Sewage Plant, Could Close Hamilton Works
There is a new setback to US Steel and Local USW 1005 union workers. USS was recently told their permission for an open-ended extension to its Hamilton Works sewage treatment agreement with the city was refused. Council members voted no to USS’ request, and now the company has said without that deal, “it could not continue to operate its coke oven battery and if that was entirely shut down it could lead to the final closure of the plant,” according to The Spec’s article.
With the lockout still going on between plant union workers and USS, the company now has one more reason to shut the plant down for good. The argument remains the same - Hamilton mill union members refuse to give up cutting pensions while US Steel refuses to bargain with them.
The article reports, “Since 2009, U.S. Steel has been operating under an agreement with Hamilton that allowed it to pump phenol-laced sewage into the city’s pipes and to pay Hamilton to process that waste water. The agreement expired at the end of 2010, by which time the company was to have completed a water treatment plant on its own on the Stelco property. Work on that plant came to a screeching halt, however, when the company locked out its Hamilton staff to back demands for pension changes and the contractor overseeing work on the plant refused to cross the picket line. U.S. Steel asked for an extension to the old agreement that would run for four months after the lockout is settled, but council unanimously voted to give the company 30 days to find a way of getting contractor staff across the picket line to finish a plant that will benefit the environment of the entire city.”
The Councilor that drafted the motion said “his intention was to force the company into coming up with a plan to solve its sewage problem by talking to Local 1005.” The general consensus is that the union will not block contractors from working on the sewer plant, as the union wants the plant to stay open.
An article from The Gazette (Sachem) reported that although USS cites the Local 1005 workers refusal to do work as the reason the sewage plant was not finished, Local 1005 president Rolf Gerstenberger said, “locked-out members have never stood in the way of finishing a $25-million pretreatment plant needed to bring U.S. Steel’s toxic sewer discharges in line with city bylaw limits.
According to Gerstenberger, “he was told in October the project needed little more than a month’s work and the company chose to lock the gates on November 7 rather than complete the job by the end of last year as promised.”
U.S. Steel spokesperson Trevor Harris said, “To insinuate that we’re trying to slough off completing the project, I don’t really accept. There are circumstances, obviously, that have arisen that have prevented us from being able to complete it when we wanted to,” Harris said. “But I think we’ve demonstrated our willingness to actually complete this project, get ourselves into compliance and get out of the business of compliance agreements altogether.”