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US Steel Canadian Lockout Ends

25 October, 2011By a 61% vote on October15, members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1005 in Hamilton, Ontario, ended U.S. Steel's chokehold on the livelihoods of 900 Canadian workers. Union members accepted a three-year labour agreement that ended a 49-week lockout at the steel mill.

CANADA: The agreement meant workers began returning to their rightful steel mill jobs on 18 October for week-long health and safety training. Further recalls for the training are expected this week and next. The new pact is not altogether satisfactory because it creates a two-tier pension scheme with new hires placed in an inferior plan, and it ends cost-of-living indexing for 9,000 retirees, a key issue in the 14-month dispute.

U.S. Steel pressured steelworkers into submission by first imposing the lockout on 7 November 2010, and then supplying its Canadian customers from the former Stelco mill in Hamilton with finished steel from American mills. In the end and after nearly one year, most of Local 1005's members were on the verge of losing unemployment insurance benefits, which coupled with the USW's C$200-a-week strike benefit gave workers about two-thirds of their normal income.

The agreement contains a C$3,000 ratification bonus, to be paid within 60 days of the 15 October vote, and it also includes a lump sum pay-out of C$1,000 to retirees taking in less than C$1,500-per-month in lieu of annual pension indexing. Active workers will also see reduced cost-of-living annual increases.

A profit-sharing plan for active employees will be implemented in the fourth quarter 2011. It will come from a pool of money totalling 6.5% above C$25 million in earnings from the Hamilton Works and could mean an added C$3,500 in income per worker. Union members will receive credited service for the 11 months of the lockout, meaning some workers will be closer to taking retirement.

All workers will be guaranteed 26 weeks of employment at 40 hours per week. That countered a U.S. Steel proposal from mid-September in which the company sought call-back language that would have left many workers without jobs long after ratification and the end of the lockout. As it is, U.S. Steel will only re-start the coke ovens, the cold line, and the Z line. There are no plans in the near future to re-start Hamilton's blast furnace.

Read the full ICEM release here.