Pension indexing at heart of steel showdown

Timing of shutdown tied to contract negotiations, union claims
By Danielle Harder
|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 11/12/2010

The United Steelworkers are accusing U.S. Steel Canada of shutting down its Hamilton blast furnace as a way to “freeze out” workers on the verge of a labour dispute.

The Pittsburgh-based steel giant made the announcement at the end of September, citing an ongoing slump in the steel industry. The company said the estimated 300 to 400 people affected will be shuffled to other parts of the plant.

However, Rolf Gerstenberger, president of United Steelworkers Local 1005, is suspicious of the timing. The contract covering the company’s 900 workers expired in July. Negotiations started in late May; however, Gerstenberger says they came to an abrupt halt on July 7.