USW Demanding Inside Information on USSC Sale

Written by Sandy Williams

Union workers at Hamilton and Lake Erie works have asked the Superior Court to order US Steel Canada to release the identity of potential bidders for the CCAA protected assets.

The information on the 39 companies that have shown interest in buying all or part of USSC is crucial to the interests of workers said USW officials.

“This isn’t a private transaction just to benefit U.S. Steel. It’s a bankruptcy protection case, a court process that affects thousands. Those who are directly affected – our community, our members and our pensioners – deserve a fair, open and transparent process. It’s their jobs and their pensions that are at risk,” said Gary Howe, President of USW Local 1005 in Hamilton in a press release last week.

The underfunded pension plan is at the core of USW concerns. The fund has a shortfall of more than $830 million needed to pay pensions if the facilities should close.

The USW also wants the court to prevent US Steel from “exercising undue control and gaining an unfair advantage in the sale and restructuring process.”

“We’re saying, ‘no more secret deals.’ We want to meet with the bidders and we want to meet with them immediately,” said Bill Ferguson, President of USW Local 8782 in Nanticoke.

“We’ve seen where the Investment Canada Act and those secret deals got us – lost jobs, plant shutdowns and broken promises on investment and production,” said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

The “secret deal” the USW officials are referring to is the agreement made between the government and US Steel in which the company made undisclosed promises in return for the government dropping a suit against the US Steel for failing to honor commitments made during purchase of the former Stelco assets.

If US Steel Canada bars meaningful involvement by the USW, the union said it will ask Superior Court Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel to impose a “stakeholder consultation protocol” to protect the key stakeholders’ interests.

The protocol the union proposes would require U.S. Steel “to provide complete, unredacted copies of the letters of interest” submitted by potential bidders.

It would also allow discussions between stakeholders and potential bidders, ensure stakeholders receive regular updates on the SARP (Sale and Restructuring Process) and provide the stakeholders with complete, unredacted copies of bids submitted by potential buyers in the second phase of the SARP.

Currently US Steel is the debtor-in-possession (DIP) lender for USSC during the restructuring process—a position that the USW says “skews the sales process in its favor.” The USW is proposing a court order to require the monitor to seek alternative DIP lenders during the sales and restructuring process.

A spokesperson for US Steel Canada has said that the bids would be revealed “at the appropriate time.”

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