Steel Mills

Court Hearing Thursday for Terms of US Steel Canada Sale

Written by Sandy Williams

US Steel Canada will be in court on Thursday to settle the terms of sale for its steel mills, Hamilton Works and Lake Erie Works. Workers and the provincial government objected to a clause in the proposed plan which would freeze the sale process if any bidder’s offer included settlement of debts owed to it as part of its purchase price.

Objectors to the clause fear that dragging out the sales process would deter potential bidders. Of particular concern is that bidders would drop out of the process leaving US Steel to buy the assets for what it is owed, 2.2 billion, leaving no additional monies to rescue the underfunded pension plan.

“This seems really dragged-out, but it shows that nobody trusts U.S. Steel,” said Gary Howe, incoming president of Hamilton Work’s USW Local 1005, as quoted by the Hamilton Spectator. “Our concern is what’s going to happen to the pensioners and to our own pensions and benefits.”

Frustration over the bankruptcy of US Steel Canada led Hamilton MP David Christopherson to bring a motion to Parliament to get the federal government to apologize for ever allowing US Steel to take over the former Stelco steel operation. The motion was defeated, but by only 23 votes, and allowed the deteriorating situation of steelworkers at Hamilton to be brought to the attention of Parliament. Christopherson also demanded in the motion that the text of the original deal between US Steel and Canada be released and action be taken to ensure funding of employee and retiree pensions.

When US Steel took over the bankrupt Stelco in 2007 it promised to maintain the workforce of 3,105 for three years, invest $200 million in Hamilton and Lake Erie works, and produce 14 million tonnes of steel during the period. During the recession in 2008, the blast furnaces at Hamilton Works were shut down and in 2009 both Hamilton and Lake Erie works were temporarily idled. The following years were riddled with lockouts and layoffs. All steel making operations were permanently shut down at Hamilton Works in December of 2013. US Steel Canada filed for bankruptcy protection under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) in September 2014 and plans were made to sell the steel operations. Union officials have been frustrated in their efforts to have the terms of US Steel’s purchase and later agreements revealed.

Canada’s Industry Minister, James Moore, says the government did everything they could to ensure that US Steel promises were kept and the steel mills continued to operate. The losses at US Steel Canada were unfortunate, said Moore.

“We don’t run the company, the company made business decisions that turned out not to work,” he said in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator. “Those are not the policies of any government, they are the policies of a particular firm.”

Latest in Steel Mills