Steelworkers launch a campaign to save Québec's steel industry - The steel beam mill: we want it now!

    CONTRECOEUR, QC, May 12 /CNW Telbec/ - The United Steelworkers (FTQ) is
launching a campaign today to pressure the ArcelorMittal company to honour its
commitment, made in 2007, to build a steel beam mill at Contrecoeur. "The
layoffs that we are experiencing in this sector are threatening the viability
of Québec's steel industry. Québec needs this type of industry now more than
ever. We have iron ore on the North Shore. It would be entirely logical for it
to be processed here in Québec. Furthermore, the time to prepare for the
economic recovery is now. Major infrastructure projects are in the offing. It
would be inconceivable that we should import steel beams, since we could very
well make them here, particularly since ArcelorMittal has promised us a mill.
Finally, we are asking the government to get involved," declared Daniel Roy,
Québec Director of the United Steelworkers (FTQ).
    Keep in mind that in December 2007, the company announced that a steel
beam mill would be built. This was supposed to create over 200 jobs. Also
according to the company, the mill could generate over $200 million in annual
profits. In 2007-08, the beams used here came from Europe and Asia.
    "Our campaign is a positive one. We are calling for the development of
economic activity that will have a major impact in terms of jobs in
particular. You have to understand that once things get going again at
ArcelorMittal, the entire community will benefit. Steel has been very
important in the Contrecoeur region since the 1960s. We must ensure that
Highway 30, called "the Steel Highway," continues to bear that name for the
well-being of the region and of Québec as a whole," added Pierre Arseneau,
Staff Representative of the United Steelworkers (FTQ).
    Claude Langlois, President of Local 6586, pointed out that the fight that
the ArcelorMittal workers in Contrecoeur are undertaking is in response to an
emergency situation. "If we sit on the sidelines, ArcelorMittal will simply
have benefited from the privatization that was carried out under the Robert
Bourassa government and by the Minister of Industry, Commerce, Sciences and
Technology at the time, Gérald Tremblay, without having to consolidate
Québec's steel industry. The Contrecoeur facilities have been profitable for
ArcelorMittal. We have been their gateway to the North American continent.
Now, it's payback time. Throughout the history of our union we have had to
fight to save not just our jobs, but the Québec steel industry. We believe in
it, and we will continue the fight."
    The Québec Director concluded by stressing that this was just the
beginning of the campaign. "We have no intention of backing down," he said.
"Some people may feel that we're causing trouble, but jobs and the survival of
a community are at stake here. We want the steel beam mill now!"

    Historical background

    We would point out that the workers and the union have been at the
forefront of the creation of Québec's steel industry. The Steelworkers
obtained union certification in May 1965. The cold mill opened in March 1966,
and the hot mill in January 1967. In October 1968, the Québec government
bought Dominion Steel and Coal (Dosco Inc), and the Sidbec-Dosco company was
    In 1982, the Steelworkers accomplished the remarkable feat of preventing
the closure of the flat mills. In August 1994. Sidbec-Dosco became
Ispat-Sidbec. The privatization that took place under Robert Bourassa's
Liberal government, led by his Minister of Industry, Commerce, Sciences and
Technology, Gérald Tremblay, followed years of rumours. The Contrecoeur
facilities have generated approximately $1.2 billion in profits. Mittal has
taken advantage of this to expand its empire.
    In November 2007, ArcelorMittal began consolidating and restructuring its
operations. It announced the closure of the rolling mills at Contrecoeur.
Dofasco took over the hot and cold mills located in Québec, causing the loss
of 450 jobs among union workers at Contrecoeur. In March 2008, the company
announced the closure of the wire drawing mill in Lachine and the loss of 120
jobs. On April 7, 2009, it announced that the direct iron reduction plant
would shut its doors on April 18 for an indefinite period. The slab casting
unit will suffer the same fate on June 27, 2009 and 190 people will be laid
off. Fewer than 400 workers will be left at the Contrecoeur complex.

For further information:

For further information: Daniel Roy, United Steelworkers (FTQ), (514)
850-2240; Pierre Arseneau, United Steelworkers (FTQ), (450) 656-1113; Claude
Langlois, United Steelworkers (FTQ), Local 6586, (450) 517-2528

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