Liberals Abandon U.S. Steel Pensioners, Workers

HAMILTON, ON, Aug. 22, 2016 /CNW/ - The federal Liberal government's "deafening silence" is sending a resounding message to 20,000 U.S. Steel Canada retirees suffering from the elimination of their crucial health benefits, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

"Steel industry workers and pensioners were hoping for change when the Trudeau Liberals replaced the Harper Conservatives," said USW Ontario Director Marty Warren.

"As workers and pensioners suffer blow after blow, the deafening silence from the Liberals shows there is no real change. The Liberals continue where the Conservatives left off, leaving pensioners and workers on their own. It's business as usual," Warren said.

"Like the Conservatives before them, the Trudeau Liberals have failed U.S. Steel workers and pensioners. They've failed to support jobs, pensions and benefits, failed to expose the secret deals and failed to reform Canada's antiquated and damaging corporate bankruptcy laws," he said.

More than 20,000 U.S. Steel Canada pensioners suffered another brutal blow with Friday's Superior Court ruling that denied a motion to reinstate the pensioners' drug, dental, vision and other health benefits. The pensioners' benefits were suspended last fall, when the same court, overseeing U.S. Steel Canada's bankruptcy protection case, granted a request by the company.

In addition to rejecting the reinstatement of pensioners' health benefits, the judge in the case agreed to the company's request to pay a special bonus to managers – the second such bonus awarded to management during the restructuring process.

"Our members, our pensioners and people throughout our community are outraged to see benefits that categorically belong to retirees simply taken away with the stroke of a pen, while managers receive bonuses," said Gary Howe, President of USW Local 1005, representing U.S. Steel Canada employees in Hamilton.

"Just about everybody sees this for what it is – the brutal, heartless and unnecessary elimination of pensioners' benefits. Everybody except our courts and our government, who don't seem to care," Howe said.

"Giving more bonuses to management at a time when our pensioners are still going without benefits, it's ridiculous that this is still happening," said Bill Ferguson, President of USW Local 8782, representing U.S. Steel Canada employees in Nanticoke.

"Our pensioners shouldn't be forced to live off emergency government funds while managers give each other raises and bonuses," Ferguson said.

In its motion to the court seeking reinstatement of pensioners' benefits, the USW noted U.S. Steel Canada, while operating under the Companies' Creditor Arrangement Act (CCAA), has a positive cash flow of $150 million.

Furthermore, documents that were inadvertently made public have revealed that U.S. Steel Canada has paid its American parent, U.S. Steel, $123 million above market prices for steelmaking supplies such as coal and iron ore.

Restoring the pensioners' benefits, meanwhile, would cost $3.5 million per month.

"This sums up the disgrace of the CCAA process and the federal government's silence in this scandal," said Tony DePaulo, Assistant to the USW Ontario Director, who submitted affidavits to the court revealing the suffering of pensioners who have lost their benefits.

"It's a process that allows a corporation to take away retirees' benefits while it sits on $150 million in cash and overpays its parent company another $123 million for supplies," DePaulo said.

"Not only is the Trudeau government's silence deafening, it's hurting thousands of workers and pensioners."

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: Tony DePaulo, Assistant to the USW Ontario Director, 905-869-0760, tdepaulo@usw.ca; Gary Howe, President, USW Local 1005, 905-531-4078, gary.howe@uswa1005.ca; Bill Ferguson, President, USW Local 8782, 905-537-8782, president@uswa8782.com; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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