When US Steel bought Stelco, they committed to financing the pension plan and maintaining the workforce in return for financial assistance from the federal and Ontario governments. Since then, they set up a shell company, US Steel Canada, to own the steel mill but gave it a debt of the purchase price of the mill plus responsibility for the pension plan and benefits. They then had the shell firm seek bankruptcy protection. The $2 billion they owed themselves then took legal precedence over the obligation to pensioners.
Retirees have already lost their health benefits. When the courts grant the bankruptcy application, retirees would face a reduction of at least 30% in the negotiated pensions. The Ontario Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund will underwrite up to $1,000 a month in such cases but to do so the fund would need money from the Ontario government if it is to cover 20,000 retired steelworkers.
Doug Perry, who worked at Stelco from 1970 to 2007, joined the march. He said, “I am here because US Steel has affected me personally. I’m a retiree. They cut off my cost of living [increase] arbitrarily. With the benefits that they cut Oct 8, I’ve personally had to pay hundreds of dollars out of my own pocket and it forced me to switch to other medicines…. A lot of us got sick, got injured. Some of them died on the job to produce and make a good living wage for themselves and their families and now that all doesn’t matter.”
The United Steelworkers has sought to have the government of Canada take a strong position to protect the steel industry from illegal dumping by other countries and to protect retirees.
You can take action today to support them. Here is a link to a petition. The Steelworkers ask that you sign the petition and share with your contacts so that we can show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie, Regina, Calgary, Wabush and other regions in Canada that are directly affected by this present situation and need our support.