We need help now, Stelco workers tell MP
Tiffany Mayer - Times-Reformer
NANTICOKE - Local Liberal MP Bob Speller has pledged he will take the
plight of local steelworkers all the way to Parliament Hill.
"I'm going to tell the Prime Minister that we need to do more as
a government," Speller told steelworkers from Stelco's Lake
Erie Steel on Monday.
Speller spoke to steelworkers concerned about the fate of their
industry in light of recent threats by the beleaguered Stelco that it
would have to cut labour and worker benefits and pensions in order to
The issue isn't just the security of jobs or retirement funds. The
fate of those is a symptom of more serious issues involving the soaring
Canadian dollar, the dumping of foreign steel on Canadian shores,
countries who subsidize the export of the steel it produces and the
perceived inaction by the federal government to do anything about these
There is also the economic spin-off of these issues. Haldimand and
Norfolk reap the benefits of having employed steelworkers living here,
contributing to local businesses.
"We want the new government under Paul Martin to start making
trade laws. . . so that we can start reaping the benefits of
production," steelworker Roger Falconer told Speller.
"We need to fix the price, not production. Change the rules so
they favour us and not other countries and we need your commitment to do
Stelco has wracked up $168 million in losses so far this year. As a
result, the steel giant has said substantial cuts to its 6,000-person
labour force are needed as one measure for staying afloat.
Speller, who has sat on the federal steel caucus for 15 years,
including five years as its chair, was aware of the issues facing Stelco
and the Canadian industry before Monday's meeting.
Afterward, he said there are some issues the federal government can
strive to change, including trade rules regarding dumping and
While steelworkers say the price of steel drops five dollars per
tonne for every cent the dollar rises, the soaring loonie is something
the feds have little control over, Speller explained.
"We'll have a new (trade) minister and new Prime Minister and I
most certainly will take their message back to Paul Martin and where
they (steelworkers) feel the government should be and where changes
should be made," Speller said.
"There is a future for the steel industry in this country. It's
very important for the jobs it creates and for trade. It's a critical
As to whether he's happy with what he heard, Falconer said that will
depend on whether Speller lives up to his word of taking the
steelworkers' fight to Paul Martin.
That's not Falconer's only concern, though.
"What I'm concerned about is time. The union has been saying
this (is the way the industry is going ) for five years. The industry
has been saying it for two. The government hasn't been saying
anything," Falconer said.
Stelco also wants to reopen union contracts to renegotiate pensions
and benefits. The company says it can't afford pensions, even those paid
to workers already retired.
Stelco's pension plan accumulated a $630 million shortfall in 2002
and is expected to owe another $72 million this year.
John Felker, who has been retired for more than a year and is worried
his pension cheques will soon run out, said he wasn't happy with what he
heard from Speller.
"What I heard here tonight didn't give me any insight or
comfort," he said. "They talk about pension insurance but it's
a pittance and it's not what we worked for."
Speller said there is little he can do about pensions because it is a
provincial issue. He will, however, try to flex his federal muscle with
his provincial counterparts in Queen's Park, reminding them of the
industry's importance and the need to protect worker retirement funds.
"It was a contract negotiated fairly and squarely and they (Stelco)
should live up to it."
|Big 3's slip mean
trouble for Cdn auto parts firms: association
|by Canadian Press
||posted Dec 10, 2003
By Steve Erwin
TORONTO (CP) -- It could take a decade before Canadian auto
parts suppliers grab enough business from overseas-based vehicle
makers to offset order reductions from the Big Three, says an
association of parts producers.
And by that time, many of Canada's small and mid-sized parts firms
may have shut down or consolidated under pressure from global
competition, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association
warned Dec. 10.
As General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler continue to lose
market share to Asian competitors, Canadian parts firms, long
dependent on the traditional Big Three for most of their revenue,
are losing business as well.
That decline is worsened by the tendency of non-U.S. vehicle
makers with assembly plants in North America to use their own
preferred suppliers, the APMA says.
And it's difficult to compete for business with Japanese-based
firms such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda that have dealt with
specific suppliers for decades, APMA chairman Doug Boughner said
at a news conference held to release the group's "strategic
vision" for the Canadian parts sector.
"It's not that those new manufacturers don't think Canadian
suppliers are adequate ... The new North American manufacturers
will tell you that, yes, we will buy from you eventually,"
said Boughner, also CEO of Brantford, Ont.-based Eagle Precision
Technologies Inc., a metal tube maker.
"But it will be a very long process, in some cases maybe even
10 years, after you make your initial call."
The APMA says sales by Canadian auto parts firms totalled $34
billion last year, down from a high of $36 billion in 2000. Most
of those sales are from Ontario plants run by GM, Ford,
DaimlerChrysler, Toyota and Honda.
But in the all-important U.S. market, which produces about 75 per
cent of all vehicles made in North America, the share of
Canadian-made parts is dropping as shipments from Mexico and China
Canada has recently been unable to attract new assembly plants
from foreign-based automakers attracted to the U.S. Southeast by
hundreds of millions of dollars in state incentives, or to Mexico,
where labour costs are significantly lower.
That has the APMA concerned that foreign automakers will rely more
on overseas suppliers setting up shop near newer U.S. and Mexican
The association's reliance on the Big Three comes as GM, Ford and
DaimlerChrysler are seeing their North American sales fall.
In a Dominion Bond Rating Service conference call Dec. 10, the
credit rating agency said that while its outlook for the Big Three
is stable, their ratings are at risk because of eroding market
share and inflexible labour costs at their unionized plants.
APMA president Gerry Fedchun called on Ottawa and the Ontario
government to provide funding to attract more assembly work here
and protect thousands of auto sector jobs.
"These are all problems that are creeping up on us, and if we
don't act we'll have difficulty," he said.
Boughner also called for government research funds to create
"innovative" parts that vehicle makers can't find
elsewhere. Otherwise, Canadian suppliers will go bankrupt or be
forced to merge to compete with parts operations in low-wage
countries, he said.
"We cannot compete against countries that have an average
income of $1,000 a year," he said. "The only thing we
can do to combat that is to design and develop new parts that
compensate for that difference."
Trade statistics show U.S. assembly plants imported nearly $13.8
billion worth of auto parts made in Canada last year, up 3.8 per
cent from 2001. However, Canada's share of parts imported to U.S.
vehicle factories slipped to 25.8 per cent, from 27.1 per cent in
Mexico's share increased from 27.3 per cent to 28.1 per cent and
China's share rose from two per cent to 2.4 per cent.
Still, the U.S. data appear to contradict fears that Japanese
assemblers building cars in North America aren't buying parts
locally. Japan's share of the U.S. parts sector has declined from
23 per cent in 2001 to 21.1 per cent in 2002.
"The view that the Japanese are not sourcing their (original)
parts in North American is just not true," industry analyst
Dennis DesRosiers wrote in a recent report. "In fact, much of
the automotive parts trade from Japan is for the aftermarket, so
their North American parts content must be increasingly rapidly.
Otherwise, one would pick up increases in the trade data."
Just a note: All three by-law amendments passed
. You will be electing your stewards in May 2006. This is
the power that you, the union body , has if you attend the union
meetings, as this was brought up on the floor by the union members
themselves and passes by going through the proper channels. So, if you
want to make positive changes please attend the union meetings
instead of the on the floor or cafeteria ones.