SASKATOON, Aug. 20 /CNW/ - The union representing most of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan's production workers is concerned BHP Billiton's current hostile takeover bid for the firm.

"On the basis of the union's review of BHP's offer and following discussions with BHP officials, the takeover has not demonstrated a clear net benefit to Canada. Such a takeover of a Canadian resource should not proceed until a net benefit is proven to Canadians under the federal Investment Canada Act and made public," said Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director for Canada. 

The union has challenged BHP to show what significant benefits a takeover would provide.

In addition USW Western Canada director Stephen Hunt says the union is deeply concerned about the possibility of BHP's pulling out of Canpotex, the potash-marketing agency that for 40 years has sold Saskatchewan's potash on the global market.  "That would be a selfish and reckless move," said Hunt.  "It might be good for BHP but it certainly would not be good for the Saskatchewan industry, its workers or the people of Saskatchewan."

As a report in Wednesday's Globe and Mail notes, a BHP pullout from Canpotex, "could have negative implications for smaller or higher-cost potash companies in Canada and possibly for the Saskatchewan government, which makes sizable royalties from the potash business."

"The Investment Canada Act allows the federal government to reject foreign takeovers of Canadian companies should they appear not to provide a 'net benefit' to Canada. The USW is also asking for a public hearing process, including the involvement of workers and their union as key stakeholders in the industry," emphasized Neumann.

In a letter to BHP CEO Marius Kloppers, Hunt and Neumann ask: "What new investments will BHP make that Potash Corp isn't making now?  What guarantees of current and future jobs do they offer?  What improvements to workers' health and safety or economic well-being will the takeover bring?  What increase in revenues or other benefits would flow to the people of Saskatchewan?"

Hunt noted that people in Saskatchewan take the potash sector very seriously:  "It's not so long ago that the Potash Corporation was a Crown corporation owned by the people of the province and providing billions of dollars in revenues to the people.  People believe - and they should believe - that the resource belongs to them and that it should continue to provide benefits and opportunities for future generations."

The union is also urging the Saskatchewan government to "stand up for Saskatchewan" by demanding that BHP make clear what benefits it offers the province and ensure that any deal provides full benefits to the people of Saskatchewan.

"It's not so long ago that the Government of Saskatchewan took over the potash sector because companies refused to pay a fair share of mineral royalties," Hunt observes

"For over a decade the federal government has failed to stand up of Canada when our resources and industries have been bought by foreign multinationals -- from Inco to Stelco. The harm to our communities has been devastating," added Hunt.

"It's time our government protects Canadian interests and Canadian communities. They need to uphold the powers of the Investment Canada Act, and make the process and agreements fair and transparent," said Neumann.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: For further information:

Contacts: Ken Neumann, 416-544-5950,
  Steve Hunt, 604-683-1117
  Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221,

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