TORONTO, Dec. 4, 2015 /CNW/ - United Steelworkers National Director Ken Neumann says the Liberal government's Speech from the Throne leaves both gaps and opportunities for Canadian workers, particularly in industries like steel and forestry.
"Broad statements leave us both hopeful and full of questions," said Neumann. "While trade and infrastructure investment are important, the very real uncertainty currently faced by workers and retirees, as a result of an absence of industrial strategy by previous governments, is worrisome. The lack of concern for Canada's manufacturing base has led to the dumping of foreign products into Canada by other countries."
Neumann said that although the government repeated its plan to invest in Canada's infrastructure, nothing was said about how, or with what, this infrastructure will be built. The USW is currently involved in anti-dumping trade cases against numerous countries like China.
The government has given no indication nor made a promise to use Canadian products rather than dumped Chinese steel for its infrastructure projects.
"Using Canadian tax dollars to purchase dumped steel would not only threaten the jobs of Canadian steelworkers who make the same product here in Canada, but Chinese steel is not made to the same quality standards as Canadian steel," Neumann said. "Infrastructure projects, funded by Canadian taxpayer dollars, should be built using Canadian steel. It's good economics, and it's safer."
As well, Neumann said foreign investment decisions made by the federal government in secret have devastated workers, retirees and their families in Hamilton, ON, while similar uncertainties are emerging in Sault Ste. Marie, where Essar-Algoma Steel recently filed for bankruptcy protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
"We hope and expect this government to act rapidly to preserve jobs in key economic sectors, as well as the dignity of retired workers and their families, who have given their most productive years to build Canadian industry. Fair trade and a strong Canadian economy cannot be accomplished without re-building manufacturing so that we have something to trade beyond raw resources."
Neumann added that the union has already met with government bureaucrats over the future of the recently-expired Softwood Lumber Agreement with the United States.
"The softwood lumber issue was not referenced today nor included in the mandate delivered to International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland from the Prime Minister," said Neumann. "We wonder what that means, when we also face continued raw log exports to Asia and more pressure under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"Our union has 25,000 members in the forestry sector and since the early 2000s forestry companies, such as Interfor, have moved production across the border to avoid U.S. duties.
"This government must ensure that any trade deals clearly benefit workers and communities.
"If Mr. Trudeau wants to save the middle class, then he has to save jobs."
Neumann said the USW will continue to seek meetings with ministers over these issues and others.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Contacts: Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5950; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, [email protected]