Steel Mills

Ontario Court Reserves Judgment on Release of US Steel Agreement

Written by Sandy Williams

The Ontario Superior Court reserved judgment Monday on releasing the terms of an agreement made between US Steel Corp. and the Canadian federal government in 2011.

Last week the Canadian government refused to release the documents that outline what was agreed by US Steel in return for the government dropping its suit against the company for not keeping promises made when it purchased the former Stelco facilities.

“It would be against the law for us to release this information without the agreement of the company,” said Industry Canada spokesperson Jake Enwright, adding that US Steel could release the information if it so chose.

“There is no jurisdiction for this court to order the production of the settlement,” said Michael Barrack, a lawyer for U.S. Steel, in court on Monday. Barrack added that without US Steel’s acquisition of Stelco, “It’s likely the company would now be out of business.”

Hamilton Works and Lake Erie Works are still operating under CCAA protection but are currently up for sale. Depending on who purchases the mills and why, one or both may still end up “out of business.”

In a joint motion to the court, the USW and City of Hamilton requested the agreement be made public.

The motion states that the union and the city “require disclosure of the settlement agreement at this time to be able to participate meaningfully and effectively in the negotiations and discussions that are currently underway.”

“They need to be able to review and understand the obligations of USS under the settlement agreement to ensure that all rights and obligations owed by the parties and in particular, by USS, have been or will be fulfilled. They also need to understand how the settlement agreement will be considered in the restructuring negotiations and how USS intends to address its obligations under the settlement agreement in a plan of compromise. USS’s obligations could also affect damages claims.”

Superior Court Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel will review the arguments and details of law and present a written decision next week.

USW presidents of the local unions representing Hamilton and Lake Erie works expressed their opinions on US Steel, the government and why the agreement should be released.

Bill Ferguson, President of USW Local 8782 at Lake Erie Works called it “offensive” that the government argued against the release of the secret agreement.

“We need to know how the terms of this secret deal could affect this CCAA case and how it could affect the lives of our workers, our pensioners and our communities,” said Ferguson. “To see this government trying to keep this information hidden from us just confirms that it is squarely on the side of U.S. Steel and has absolutely no interest in supporting the workers, pensioners and families who risk losing so much.”

“Our members and our community don’t trust U.S. Steel or this government to do what’s best for workers and pensioners,” said Gary Howe, incoming President of USW Local 1005 representing Hamilton Works.

“It is clear that we deserve compensation, which at the very least is a fully funded pension plan, post-employment benefits and guaranteed jobs in Hamilton,” added Howe “Our retirees deserve to live in dignity and not have to worry that what they earned will be swindled from them. The best way to ensure that is to start making steel again at our Hamilton plant.”
(Source: USW)

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