Open letter to the Prime Minister: Please don't sacrifice Boilermakers jobs in Calgary and Winnipeg

CALGARY, Jan. 22, 2017 /CNW/ - The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers have sent the following letter to Prime Minister Trudeau expressing their concerns about Public Interest recommendations by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal for anti-dumping duty relief on Gypsum Board from the United States.

The Boilermakers consider that should the Cabinet accept these recommendations, the jobs of 120 of their members at Winnipeg and Calgary are at risk. Reaction to the Tribunal's recommendations has already resulted in a downshifting at Calgary, which could affect 25% of Boilermakers members employed there.

January 22, 2016

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I am writing to you on behalf of 120 International Brotherhood of Boilermakers members who work in gypsum board plants in Calgary and Winnipeg.

We are very concerned that acceptance by your Government of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal's (the Tribunal) recommendations to reduce the discipline of dumping duties on imports of gypsum board from the United States will put our jobs at risk. Indeed, I am just advised that on January 29, 2016, CertainTeed Gypsum Canada Inc. will reduce the number of shifts at its Calgary plant from four to three.

U.S. gypsum board producers led by Koch Industries, owners of Georgia Pacific (GP), were selling gypsum board into Western Canada at less than half of the U.S. price. This is a classic case of dumping by unusually large margins. The Tribunal found this to be injurious.

The Tribunal has recommended relief for U.S. dumpers and Canadian contractors who did not protect their ability to pass on duty increases. These recommendations will extend for at least six months the injurious situation the Tribunal found existed before the duties were imposed. The Tribunal's recommendations for the ongoing discipline of injurious dumping are underwhelming. I am advised the remedy can be negated through the jiggery-pokery transfer pricing systems of multinational corporations.

When CBSA introduced preliminary duties, our members were rehired for a full shift at Calgary and an additional shift was introduced at Winnipeg. While your Government has not accepted the Tribunal's recommendations, the pessimism and expectation of continued unabated dumping have generated has already had an adverse impact on our members.

The Governor in Council ordered a special inquiry into short supply in Western Canada. CertainTeed's storage facilities at Calgary are full. Why? – Because the market is flooded with dumped imports, which the Tribunal apparently does not see a need to discipline.

Georgia Pacific has idled plants at Surrey, B.C. and Edmonton, Alberta.  Local drywall supply could be increased if these were re-opened. Georgia Pacific cannot refuse to re-open its idled plants on one hand and claim short supply on the other. If there was a shortage, it was driven by corporate decisions of those who have chosen to leave Canada and dump from U.S. plants to serve Canadian markets.

Please understand our position – no Canadian worker should lose his or her livelihood to unfairly traded imports.  This is a principle established on June 7, 1904 by Sir James Fielding, Minister of Finance in the Government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, when Canada introduced disciplines on dumping to the world. 

The implications of the Tribunal recommendations for our brothers and sisters are serious:

  • the 20 union and non-union jobs added after the Preliminary Determination of dumping are at immediate risk; indeed, half of them have received a downshifting notice.
  • the jobs of 100 brothers and sisters at Winnipeg and Calgary are at risk;
  • the likelihood that idled Georgia Pacific plants at Surrey and Edmonton will be re-opened will be increasingly remote – so we will not recover the 100 jobs there.

There are no other good Canadian middle class jobs available for our members.  Unemployment in Alberta is at record levels.  Only one of the 100 Boilermakers members who lost their jobs and livelihoods when Georgia Pacific idled its Canadian operations at Surrey, B.C. and Edmonton, Alberta, has found a good union job.

The Tribunal's report requires a full analysis.  It extrapolates alleged duty costs to six contractors   to 800.  There was not a scintilla of evidence of the experience of the other 794 contractors – or however many there really are.  This does not seem to us to be sound economic analysis; certainly it is not a representative sample.

The Governor in Council asked the Tribunal for advice on the implications for Canada's trade and commercial policies of reduced duties.  Is it sound policy to have those prepared to invest in Canada left twisting in the wind to benefit those who have left, and dump to keep their Canadian market?  What impression does this convey to foreign investors?

Boilermakers operate the tug boats which move logs around the B.C. coast.  They are not very busy these days – because of chilling effects of U.S. investigations of softwood lumber.  Frankly, they would be shocked and appalled if your Government were to condone this illegal dumping by the U.S. firms like Georgia Pacific who have idled their Canadian plants. 

The Governor in Council's reference to the Tribunal preceded the U.S. election, but President Trump has a very different trade agenda.  Is it sound or reasonable policy to forgive injurious U.S. dumpers when the U.S. cannot and will not reciprocate to Canada?

Parties opposed to the tariffs told the Tribunal that Canadian home buyers have also been affected by mortgage eligibility changes and changes in building codes.  These other charges added much more to building costs than selling gypsum board at fair market prices.  The Tribunal simply notes the existence of these other charges but offers no analysis of quantification.

Reducing or denying protection against illegal dumping will not lessen the impact of these other factors.

Standard Canadian construction contracts enable contractors and subcontractors to pass on increased taxes and duties.  Unfortunately, this information only came into our hands after the Tribunal record had closed.  But your record is not closed, nor is the interest of the Auditor General ever extinguished.  I am certain that your Government would wish to ensure that neither the undeserving nor those simply unwilling to exercise contractual rights are permitted to dive from the high board into the public trough.

Prime Minister, the Tribunal's recommendations are not binding on your Government.  The Cabinet can accept, reject or modify the Tribunal's recommendations.  The Tribunal did what it was asked to do, in a very short timeframe and out of sequence. We do not blame the Tribunal for not achieving perfection. There was not enough time and inadequate information to do that.  Indeed, the Tribunal itself has recognized and acknowledged the inadequacy of the data.

You need to provide the political assessment and judgement in determining what to accept and reject which the Tribunal is not equipped or empowered to provide.  I am talking about middle class tradespersons.  They have families, homes, mortgages and children who need to be educated for the cold realities of the new economy.

We are electricians, welders and mill wrights.  Our jobs are not being lost to automation or robots.  We support duty relief for Fort McMurray where Boilermakers worked 2.5 million hours in 2015.  We make plants run so that others can work.

We support the Tribunal's recommendations for duties collected during the provisional period.  This is over, and these imports are in the market. If there are real cases of hardship among contractors with fixed contracts which do not permit them to pass on increased duties – then some form of relief should be provided.

If your Government is really serious about creating good middle class jobs for Canadians, you will instruct your officials to devise a duty mechanism which will increase market prices to levels which will persuade Georgia Pacific to re-open its plants at Edmonton, Alberta and Surrey, B.C. Your Government should not ignore any opportunity to create more good middle class jobs.

Prime Minister, we understand you are busy.  We are pleased that your Cabinet retreat will be in Alberta.  Alberta and its fractured economy badly need your attention and help.

I urge you and your Cabinet to consider this matter and its human implications carefully.  Please make haste slowly on this important issue and make a balanced and fair decision which does not destroy any Canadian manufacturing jobs.

We must circulate this open letter to the media and are doing so.

Yours truly,

Rob Lauzon
Assistant Director
Industrial Sector Operations
The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers

cc

Gerald Butts, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister
c/o samantha.khalil@pmo-cpm.gc.ca

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff
c/o samantha.khalil@pmo-cpm.gc.ca 

 

SOURCE International Brotherhood of Boilermakers

For further information: Rob Lauzon, 604-308-3767, rlauzon@boilermakers.org; Kevin Sheptycki, 780-908-1062, kevinsheptycki@live.ca


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