October 4, 2011 - No. 7
40th General Ontario Election
A Crucial Question to Ask: Do
with the People or the Monopolies?
• Autoworkers Must Heed Threats to Their
Pensions and Take Appropriate Action to Defend Their Rights
The People Versus U.S. Steel
• U.S. Steel Executives Attack and Badmouth
Steelworkers and Hamilton Works -
• Workers' Outraged at Company's Refusal
Negotiate in Good Faith
• Misleading Talk about "Final Offers" and
"Walking Out of Negotiations" - Local 1005 USW
• Misleading Company "Highlights" -
Interview, Rolf Gerstenberger, President, Local 1005
Autoworkers Must Heed Threats to Their Pensions and
Take Appropriate Action to Defend Their Rights
Threats to the security of GM pensions in the U.S. must
be taken seriously in Canada. The onslaught on retired autoworker
health care benefits began in the U.S. and soon moved north. GM
executives made it clear during their campaign to renege on contracted
health care benefits that they hold no responsibility
for any Canadian post-employment benefits including pensions. GM
executives in their class action lawsuit against retirees in Ontario
and Quebec went so far as to declare that they have the right "to
unilaterally terminate" any post-employment benefit they consider
detrimental to the U.S. monopoly's viability.
The recently ratified GM/UAW collective agreement
contains an addendum entitled: "Pension De-Risk Consideration: 2011
UAW-GM Supplemental Agreement Exhibit A (Pension Plan)."
The letter states in part, "The parties agreed that the
national parties may mutually agree during the term of this agreement
to amend the [pension] plan to add retirement options for some or all
existing retirees to help GM reduce the volatility and risk related to
the plan and benefit existing retirees by providing
an additional voluntary option."
This language replicates
that used to destroy the system
of post-employment health care benefits, which had become for retirees
a legal collective claim on GM revenue. GM unilaterally negated
retirees claim to secure health care with its introduction of a Health
Care Trust (HCT), which once established is no
longer funded from company revenue. Retirees did not agree or vote to
have their health care benefits reduced and put into an HCT. The HCT
was simply declared a necessary part of GM's anti-worker anti-social
restructuring "to reduce the volatility and risk of the existing plan
and make the company viable." No
alternative was discussed or allowed to be discussed. GM, with the
active instigation of governments, simply dictated the destruction of
the existing contracted health care obligation. Retirees did not agree
or vote to destroy the contracted health care benefit system and
replace it with the HCT that effectively reduces
their benefits. GM, the governments and courts forcibly introduced the
HCT as part of GM's anti-worker anti-social restructuring in 2009 and
are now putting it into practice.
The current GM/UAW letter "to amend the [pension] plan"
implies that GM has the right to change the pension system without the
agreement of the retirees who no longer can vote for or against
collective agreements. GM says it has the right "to unilaterally
terminate" any post-retirement benefit and the letter
"Pension De-Risk" reiterates this belief. The fact that it is couched
in vague terms such as "voluntary options" and "mutually agree" is
meant to fool the gullible and give GM a blank cheque.
GM has no right to change the pension system without the
conscious participation and informed consent of the retirees. However,
retirees can only make their public right to a say in the security of
their pensions a reality through restricting GM's monopoly right to
change unilaterally their pension plan. No other
force than a united determined opposition by retirees themselves can
stop GM's monopoly right "to add retirement options for some or all
existing retirees to help GM," as the letter states.
The courts will not help workers as they have already
ruled that GM has the right "to unilaterally terminate" health care
benefits and replace them with the HCT. Governments have refused to
help and hold GM to account for unilaterally breaking contracted
obligations. Quite the opposite. The Ontario, federal
and U.S. governments egged on GM to break its commitments to retirees
under the hoax of an anti-worker anti-social restructuring to make the
monopoly viable through concessions and bailouts using public money.
Those governments have consistently refused to introduce
comprehensive public health care coverage for all members of society
and have blocked any progressive movement towards a universal
retirement system that guarantees workers the security of the standard
of living they fought for and acquired during
their active working lives funded from a government claim on the
collective wealth workers produce annually. It is the height of narrow
self-serving duplicity and capital-centred ignorance that governments,
courts and the monopolies insist that tearing down the standard of
living of the working class is a solution
to the general economic crisis or the particular problems of a company.
To argue and carry out in practice that the way a monopoly can be
viable is by negating the rights of its workers, lowering their
standard of living, wrecking the means of production and paying the
rich with public money reflect a system that
needs a fundamental change and new direction. Concessions are not
solutions! Stop paying the rich! Manufacturing yes! Nation-wrecking no!
GM's threat to retirees' pensions in the U.S. must be
taken seriously in Canada. Actions with analysis should be organized at
once to tell GM, the other auto monopolies and governments that these
attempts to undermine the security of autoworkers' pensions will be met
with determined resistance and will not
Autoworker retirees do not want "voluntary options";
they want their pension plans made whole, solvent and secure now! That
is the law, that is GM's contracted obligation and that is the
inalienable public right of autoworkers!
Defend the Pensions We Have!
Fight for Pensions for All!
Monopoly Right No! Public Right Yes!
The People Versus U.S. Steel
U.S. Steel Executives Attack and Badmouth Steelworkers
and Hamilton Works
U.S. Steel executives in
their campaign to extort
concessions from Local 1005 members at Hamilton Works constantly
badmouth steelworkers, their union Local 1005 USW and the facility,
they threaten to close. In their latest outburst contained in yet
another "final offer" to Local 1005 members, or more properly
stated their latest "refusal to bargain," certain executives denounce
Hamilton Works as "a severely challenged facility" that "has sustained
massive losses" since U.S. Steel bought it. Of course, the executives
fail to mention that the mill, in contravention of the Investment Canada Act (ICA), has
been mostly shut down
or run at reduced capacity since they seized control in 2007. In fact,
the wrecking of production and employment at both Hamilton Works and
Lake Erie Works has been so severe that the federal government charged
U.S. Steel with breaking its production and employment commitments
under the ICA.
Reading the disparaging comments and threats against the
plant's existence, one wonders why U.S. Steel executives bought Stelco
in the first place. The purchase price in 2007 was not cheap as it paid
over one billion dollars in cash, and assumed debt and the
responsibility for four pension plans for a total of
around $2 billion. Compare this with the current paltry $3 billion
stock market evaluation of the entire U.S. Steel equity, which includes
dozens of mills, coal and iron ore mines and other facilities and
property in North and South America and Europe. Quite a remarkable
situation considering U.S. Steel executives'
apparent disdain for Hamilton Works. If their hatred is not just for
show then why are they not willing to take responsibility for an
apparent miscalculation in buying Stelco in the first place and do the
honourable thing, sell Stelco to another monopoly or the government for
at least the amount it must immediately
put into the pension plans, leave Canada with a broken heart and resign
First, to set the record
straight, Hamilton Works is not
some dilapidated pre-war steel mill. It is a modern facility known for
producing high quality slabs and galvanized steel. The mill's
productivity is not far behind other mills as it has been upgraded many
times with about one quarter of the number of steelworkers
required to produce the same quantity and quality of steel it produced
just twenty years ago. The Hamilton mill, located in Southern Ontario
close to Toronto has a superb Lake Ontario port capable of handling
large lake carriers, which can travel out the St. Lawrence Seaway to
open sea or deeper into the interior
of the continent. Like any means of production it needs constant work,
which unfortunately U.S. Steel is not willing to do. Really, the
badmouthing is based on something other than the actual and potential
capacity of the mill.
Hamilton Works has a great history of producing wealth
for the community and Canadian economy for over a century. Local
1005 USW steelworkers fought for a Canadian standard of living and
retirement. The hatred of the U.S. executives is not for the mill per
se but the standard of living of steelworkers,
especially their defined-benefit pension and the 9,000 retirees and
their determination to defend their rights and the rights of all. The
U.S. executives loath to see added-value produced by steelworkers
"diverted" into the four pension plans or Canadian standard wages. They
want the wealth for themselves; they want
to "transfer" the value produced in Canada down to the U.S. and their
But U.S. Steel CEO Surma and other executives knew of
the existence of the four pension plans and the Canadian standard wages
and benefits before they bought the mill in 2007. They did their due
diligence and saw for themselves the pension arrangement with the
Ontario government and the required funding
to make the plans whole and solvent. They also know that pension fund
investments are very risky and subject to reversals as experienced in
2008 and even this year. So why would they buy Stelco and then almost
immediately start badmouthing their purchase and begin wrecking its
active productive capacity?
Two reasons come to mind:
1) As propaganda to extort concessions from
steelworkers, especially to destroy the pension plans and if possible
the will of steelworkers to defend themselves. The propaganda of
"challenged facilities" was accompanied with actual shutdowns of
production and then an eight-month lock-out at Lake Erie Works
to extort the destruction of the defined-benefit pension plan. They
then focussed on Hamilton Works by unilaterally stopping
the indexing of pension benefits, idling the blast furnace, fabricating
a phony lock-out without completing the environmental work it had
promised City Council, refusing to negotiate
with Local 1005 while issuing "final offer" after "final offer" with
escalating slavish demands, and constantly threatening in investment
and media circles to close Hamilton Works for good.
2) But the first reason to badmouth Hamilton Works to
extort concessions only arises after the purchase. What was going
through their minds before the purchase if they truly believed the deal
was so bad and they should not buy Stelco at any price? Of course, they
never for a second thought it was a bad purchase.
Steel prices and stock prices were soaring in 2007 and it looked as if
the economy was on an extended boom. The largest steel monopoly in the
world ArcelorMittal was buying every mill it could and so was the
upstart Russian monopoly OAO Severstal, which appeared to want Stelco
as a big wedge into the North
American market. Just this week the pro-monopoly business newspaper the
Globe and Mail
said, "Analysts raised the question Wednesday of why
U.S. Steel bought Stelco in 2007 amid a global steel industry
consolidation. The most plausible answer, the analysts said, is that
the Pittsburgh-based giant wanted to keep
Stelco out of the hands of Russian steel maker OAO Severstal, which had
bought Rouge Steel Inc., in Dearborn, Mich., earlier and was looking to
expand its operations in the Great Lakes basin."
This would not be the first time a monopoly bought a
facility to prevent a competitor from acquiring it and then shut the
purchased asset down to concentrate production or distribution in one
of its existing facilities.
For steelworkers, U.S.
Steel's badmouthing, extortion
and wrecking is one thing but the fact that none of the political
parties in power in Ontario and federally stands up to these foreign
monopolies and defends our productive facilities, assets and people are
matters of great concern. We are now in the midst of
an Ontario election. The anti-social antics of U.S. Steel in shutting
down Hamilton Works, which is an important means of producing wealth
for the people of Ontario, the threats to close it completely and the
campaign of extortion to wreck the pensions and way of life of
steelworkers are election issues that should
be widely discussed. The working class polity wants to know where
potential members of the Legislative Assembly stand on this and other
monopoly attacks on the working class and our productive assets.
Do you stand with public right and the people of Ontario
or do you stand with monopoly right and those owners of capital who are
extorting Ontario workers for concessions and wrecking our productive
facilities? Canadians demand their representatives stand with them as
one for public right and against monopoly
right. This means speaking out and concretely standing as one against
U.S. Steel's extortion of Hamilton steelworkers and the wrecking of
Workers' Outraged at Company's
Refusal to Negotiate in Good Faith
reports that well over 1,000
active members of Local 1005 USW and
retirees filled the hall where the September 29 Information Meeting on
the status of contract talks with U.S. Steel was held. They received a
report on the latest developments from President Rolf Gerstenberger,
with additional presentations by other members
of the Local's Negotiating Committee Jake Lombardo, Tony McLaughlin and
The workers applauded the Negotiating Committee's
rejection of the company's refusal to negotiate and the union's refusal
to dignify the company's arrogant demand for an answer to what it
called its "offer" with a response.
The meeting expressed what can only be called universal
outrage at the company's refusal to negotiate and to the slave clause
it arrogantly expected the workers to endorse with open arms. Not one
worker got up to say they could support this offensive deal, let alone
the attempt to shove it down their throats.
The view repeatedly expressed was that the union should not dignify
this "full and final offer" with a vote while another view said that it
could be voted on so as to turn it down one hundred percent!
Misleading Talk about "Final Offers" and
News reports on the state of contract talks between
Local 1005 USW and U.S. Steel have it all wrong and totally miss the
point when they write that Local 1005 walked out of contract
negotiations with U.S. Steel. In an article entitled "Union walks out
on steely talks," Spec journalist Steve "Benedict"
Arnold writes: "Local 1005 negotiators walked out of talks seeking an
end to the bitter 10-month lockout at U.S. Steel." The article takes
its cue from the letter U.S. Steel sent out to all employees. U.S.
Steel declares that "Their [the Union's] actions made it clear that a
negotiated end to the labour dispute is not in
sight." To confirm the statement, Benedict quotes the spokesperson for
U.S. Steel Canada, Trevor Harris. "Trevor Harris confirmed that the
union walked out of the Friday negotiations," Benedict intones.
The media also have it all
wrong when they quote the
company saying it made a final offer. The Spec article quotes
U.S. Steel's September 23 letter to employees which states,"The Company
made a final proposal for a new collective agreement to your Union
leadership." The Spec article
repeats the company line that the "final offer" is "more than fair
given Hamilton's performance and the significant challenges ahead."
This is all silly talk. First of all the company has
never made any offer. It has dictated terms and dictated the choices
the union has - accept, reject, stay neutral. To call this "an offer,"
final or otherwise, good or bad, is to be totally contemptuous of
language because it was not an "offer." To speak of this dictate
as an "offer" is also to confound the very conception of what
constitutes negotiations or the meaning of a process of "labour
Since last July, the company has refused to negotiate.
It has presented fiats. In November it demanded the Union take this
fiat to a vote and declared that refusal to do so showed the Union
leadership was on an ideological crusade. Now, eleven months later, the
Company has degenerated further. It has presented
a new fiat and given the union the choice to accept it, reject it or
Why do the media persist in repeating the Company
propaganda by calling these fiats "offers" and saying the Union walked
out of negotiations? This failure of the media to tell the truth and
discern fact from fiction is really unfortunate since it merely serves
to lower their prestige. Their reporting, besides giving
a general impression that things are not going well between Local 1005
and U.S. Steel, fails to even bring out the relevant facts.
Firstly, if the term "final offer" is to be used, then
the question comes how do you walk out of negotiations AFTER a "final
offer" has been presented to you? What negotiations are you walking out
Secondly, to suggest that U.S. Steel has any labour
relations with Local 1005 is also silly talk unless, of course,
attempts to establish a slave/master relationship are to be called
labour relations! Far from there being any "labour relations," there is
a company attempt to establish its dictatorship and a union refusal
to accept such a thing. Either the company negotiates in good faith and
recognizes the union as an equal partner in negotiations, or the
company will continue to flap its gums in the wind.
It is truly unfortunate that this creates a situation in
which everyone else has to suffer which is why active and retired
members organized by Local 1005 are trying to address what to do about
that. Even the media had to acknowledge that workers were outraged by
the Company's refusal to negotiate and that
if their fiat went to a vote it would be defeated 100 per cent.
However, the very idea that a non-negotiated fiat should
be put to a vote is itself a crazy company fantasy. Union members are
not as eager to establish master/slave relations at Hamilton Works as
is U.S. Steel!
We seriously propose that the media learn what reporting
is all about instead of becoming a part of U.S. Steel's disinformation
campaign. The union did not walk out on any negotiations because there
were no negotiations. It refused to succumb to yet another of U.S.
Steel's attempts to impose a dictatorship at
Hamilton Works. Nothing good will come out of conciliating with U.S.
Steel's arrogant treatment of Canadian steelworkers and their community.
As we said, we think it is high time the media did their
homework and stopped reporting things in a manner that makes no sense.
What the Workers Had
"We definitely shouldn't
take this to a vote, it would
acknowledge it as a legitimate contract offer by the company."
"It is an insult."
"U.S. Steel has shown once again that they have no
interest in negotiating."
"The union moved off of their two main positions in the
interest of getting a deal that it could recommend. How did U.S. Steel
respond? It thought it could kick us in the teeth. Well, think again
"We challenged U.S. Steel to negotiate once we gave up
on the indexing and the DB plan for new hires. They just humoured us
then handed us a final offer that they had with them before the
negotiating session even began. What a laugh!"
"I personally am one of the so-called unslots, along
with some 300 others. We are to be given the pleasure of working for 26
weeks at a Level Two pay scale, in my case down from a Level Five, in
the case of others down from a Level Four, and during that time I am to
do whatever the company says without
any union protection whatsoever. If I don't jump high enough or quick
enough, then I won't get the overtime I will require to get EI after
the 26 weeks. Who are we kidding here?"
"It is one thing to see these incredibly ugly and
incredibly wealthy American businessmen think they can lord it over us
like this, but for their Canadian lawyer to act as their stooge is
really beyond belief."
"The way this slave clause is written we can expect
two-tier wages before you know it."
"I never thought I would see the day when some foreign
company could come here and try to turn Hamilton Works into a Walmart.
'Show a good attitude Walmart style or I won't give you overtime and
you won't get enough hours to qualify for EI.' 'Smile for the camera
now! My, I don't think you did that nicely enough. Now, try again. Oh,
too bad, you won't get any overtime now.
You have only yourself to blame, you know. You should have smiled
nicely when I told you to."
"I think that U.S. Steel actually thought we would all
jump for glee when we received their slavery clause. It is hard to
fathom what world they think they live in."
Misleading Company "Highlights"
The letter U.S. Steel
sent to members September 29 contained the "highlights" of what it
called its "final offer." What was it covering up?
Rolf Gerstenberger: Not unexpectedly and
not very well, these "highlights" sought to make the offer look like a
very good deal the workers could not afford to turn down. One of the
"highlights" was the addition of what the workers are calling "the
slave clause." The slave clause is an offer
of 26 weeks of 32 hours per week. The "highlights" omits to mention
that it is on condition workers agree to take
Level 2 wages, down from Level 4 and Level 5, and do whatever work the
company assigns, whenever the company assigns it without question or
recourse to any union protection or grievance.
TML: One question that immediately comes
to mind is if the company wants these workers in production then why
not just give the 26-32 hour weeks and leave it at that.
RG: Yes, that is what we said. For the
past fifty years, protocols have been worked out between the company
and the union to regulate everything to do with how jobs are assigned
inside the plant and what can and cannot be done. This has given rise
to steelworkers who stand second to none
on the world scale.
All these protocols are written down in the contracts
signed between the company and Local 1005 through the years. Any
changes are negotiated but here we are faced with a company decree that
all those protocols are to be suspended. The company is to be permitted
to do whatever it pleases.
TML: Why the addition of the slave
clause? What is the company up to?
RG: We think this is a good question.
What is the company up to?
In the first version of its most recent fiat before the
inclusion of the slave clause, it had the workforce coming in for a one
or two week training period including health and safety training. It
said half of the workers returning to work would be "unslotted" and
laid off after their training. The fiat declared the creation
of a $2 million SUB (Supplementary Unemployment Benefit) fund so that
the laid-off workers could draw $200 a week.
First, this mass layoff after one or two weeks proves
that the lockout of Local 1005 is a phony labour dispute. The company
simply laid everyone off last November and called it a lockout. But in
any case, we told the company that its proposal was unacceptable. How
did it expect the workers to agree to be laid
off in exchange for a signing bonus and $200 a week SUB? We told the
company that everyone knows these workers are no longer drawing
Employment Insurance and yet you expect them to sit there on a $200 a
week retainer waiting for you to call them in.
When it presented its next fiat, the company responded
that it had heard (from its informants at the membership and
information meetings) that
the workers were not too happy with this and wanted a guarantee of
enough work to at least qualify for EI again. This is not in fact what
the workers said but the company is just told
by informants what it wants to hear and it only hears what it wants to
hear. A very foolish way of doing business if you ask me but when you
think you are the cock at the top of the dung heap, you think nothing
matters except what you want. In any case, the company responded by
putting in this slave clause.
TML: Offering 26 weeks seems geared to
some idea that this is what it takes to qualify for EI. Isn't this very
cynical, especially since it takes about 1800 hours to qualify for full
EI?! Besides, isn't U.S. Steel abusing the Canadian Employment
Insurance system by laying off workers in 26
weeks and telling them to live off the public system?
RG: Yes, it
is abusive. Governments
should hold U.S. Steel to account. But who knows what makes these U.S.
Steel executives tick. All we know is that besides anything else they
are very uncouth, totally oblivious of Canadian culture and
sensibilities. In this case, U.S. Steel is saying: So
you did not want to live on a $200 a week retainer. Fine. We will give
you work for 26 weeks. In exchange, you will have to work at Level 2
wages and do whatever we say during that period without union
protection. Then after 26 weeks, we are entitled to lay you off and
that is that. Of course, all this is beside
the fact that they refuse to restart the blast furnace and allow us to
produce steel and wealth for the economy and community.
The suggestion is that with overtime, workers will
qualify for some minimum EI and they should thank the company for its
largesse d'esprit because Hamilton Works is "very challenged" and the
company is doing them a big favour.
TML: You can't be more backward than
that. "You are my slave and should be thankful for the fact that I
agree to feed you for a time."
RG: Yes, the workers were outraged. To
say it went over like a lead balloon is an understatement. They were
furious. The company called this a very good deal given how
"challenged" it says Hamilton Works is. The workers are supposed to
feel very happy about this offer and jump at the
TML: As we understand it, this also sets
the precedent for the workers to take a big pay cut. Can you elaborate
RG: Several hundred workers would work
for six months at Level 2, when the average rate in the plant is Level
4 or Level 5. The difference would be about $4000 to $6000 a year in
lost wages. The real danger is that Level 2 could become permanent for
these so-called unslotted workers,
in fact, a two tier wage system.
TML: We understand you tried to
negotiate and the company simply turned you down.
RG: We asked for discussion. We said if
you want the workers to give up indexing on pensions and not give new
hires a defined benefit pension plan, what are you willing to give so
that we can recommend doing this to our members.
There are some very serious issues, such as language
that would provide benefits for these same new hires when they retire
because post-employment benefits are presently linked to the pensions.
We had a list of some twelve important issues the workers wanted
The company said, nope. Here is the final offer. Your
choice is to tell us whether you are going to accept or reject it or
remain neutral. That is all they had to say in response to our offer
and twelve important issues. One of them just scoffed and called them
We remained calm despite the
provocation. We said that
we did not agree with this manner of conducting talks and that as far
as their question goes it does not deserve an answer. And we left.
So, as you can see, they made it very clear there are no
negotiations only fiats. For them to say we walked out of negotiations
is silly talk, as our Union newsletter pointed out earlier today. There
were no negotiations, no discussions, no talks.
TML: It was recently reported that U.S.
Steel, or "USX" as it is listed, is one of the 5 worst performing
on the New York stock exchange. Why is it doing so badly?
RG: It could be a number of things.
Other steel companies are making all kinds of announcements about
expansions here, contracts there so what's wrong with U.S. Steel? Their
executives have now sunk so low as to try to convince Hamilton
Steelworkers that Hamilton Works is "severely
challenged" and could be worth nothing. Workers are saying, "No wonder
it is fifth to last on the stock market index; it has such a morbid
preoccupation with its own demise." They are asking, "If this is the
case that Hamilton Works is worth nothing then why did U.S. Steel buy
it and Lake Erie for $1.1 billion?"
More importantly, they are saying, "Been there, done that" because
those types of words they are using to badmouth Hamilton Works are
precisely how the old Stelco executives defined the company before it
went under bankruptcy protection and those in control manipulated the
situation to make a Big Score for
Brookfield and a few others.
It is all to fool the gullible. Hamilton Works is worth
what it is worth; it has great productive capacity in its own right and
there is a good market out there for what it produces. Why U.S. Steel
wants to tank it or badmouth it is a real question. We have the
experience that when the former Stelco wanted to prove
that it qualified for protection under the Company Creditors'
Arrangement Act, to get rid of all its creditors and
reorganize to make the big score, it presented Hamilton Works as worth
nothing. Then after having the court go along with its scam and lining
up all its ducks in a row, it declared the
same allegedly worthless company magically worth $1.1 billion! And that
was a clear $1.1 billion for the hucksters because U.S. Steel assumed
all outstanding debt and employee obligations such as the four pension
There is also talk in business circles about a sale of
U.S. Steel, in which case this low valuation of not only Hamilton Works
but of U.S. Steel as a whole -- they say its entire assets add up now
according to the stock market to only $4 billion -- is a typical method
of directors setting themselves up for a big score,
where they buy out the existing shares or some such scam and then
suddenly the new U.S. Steel or merged company is worth ten times as
much. It is a totally exposed, worn out little hat trick, which if the
directors think they can pull it off, and make an attempt, will only
deepen the crisis of credibility facing the
Obama administration. U.S. Steel CEO John Surma is on Obama's Buy
American Committee, one of the CEO's who is dictating how the
administration should intervene in the economy to guarantee that
monopolies such as U.S. Steel make a killing while everyone else lines
up on bread lines.
TML: Already Globe and Mail journalist
Greg Keenan mentioned unnamed analysts questioning what US Steel is up
RG: Yes. Keenan said analysts are asking
why U.S. Steel bought Hamilton Works if all it is doing is cratering
it. We also know of analysts who are asking the same thing. But one
thing is for sure, these people in control do not do anything without a
master plan to serve their narrow interests.
TML: Is U.S. Steel interested in
settling the contract?
might be in the sense that the
present lockout is costing it $40 million a quarter; at least that is
what it says. Its so-called offer was to put the coke oven and Z-line
workers back to work while others would be the so-called unslotted.
Steelworkers are now to be divided into slotted and
unslotted! It doesn't take a great imagination to know that it is
cheaper for U.S. Steel to produce coke using steelworkers rather than
keeping management in the plant 24 hours a day, one week in and one
week out, and paying bricklayers $5,000 a week to do a few hours work.
We can't imagine that local management
is too happy about being left with this regime for another six months
and more. Money can't buy everything and everyone. Plus it is possible
that the bricklayers are being a bit more careful about doing
steelworker jobs since they were taken to task for scabbing. This means
that management staff has to do the real
dirty jobs like sides, lids and coal handling. They can't be too happy
about that for much longer.
Then there is the issue of work required on the
treatment plant. Obviously, U.S. Steel would like to go to the City and
say the lockout is over and receive an extension while the contracted
company completes the work that was halted with the phoney lockout.
Maybe this is why it offered 26 weeks to the so-called
unslotted workers. The company possibly figures that once the treatment
plant is fixed it can lay off all the "unslotted" and just get on with
the lucrative job of producing coke and polluting Hamilton with
Sure, it would like the lockout to be over so long as it
gets its cake and eats it too.
TML: What will it do now that the union
refused to "accept, reject or stay neutral?"
RG: Who knows? It has threatened to hot
idle the coke ovens, cold idle the coke ovens, get the treatment plant
company to cross the picket lines, get more injunctions, keep us out
for two more years .
It really needs an exit strategy because to keep cutting
off its own nose to spite its face does not seem like a sustainable
activity. We tried to give them one but they turned it down.
One thing is for sure. Hamilton steelworkers will not go
gentle into that good night.*
TML: Thank you very much.
* Do not go
gentle into that good
Old age should burn and
close of day;
Rage, rage against the
dying of the light.
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