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Algoma Steel contract talks turn sour

Company offers $6,000 signing bonuses. Union says no cigar
Last week, members of USW Local 2251 voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike

After several days of optimism, talks between Algoma Steel Inc. and United Steelworkers Local 2251 have again taken a turn for the worse.

The Sault steelmaker announced Friday night that it has tabled its "revised best and final offer" but says it got the brush-off from negotiators representing more than 2,000 hourly workers.

"Algoma has again received notice that the 2251 negotiating committee has refused the offer and is unwilling to bring the offer to employees for a vote," the company said in a news release.

"Algoma believes its offer to 2251 provides a highly competitive compensation package that is superior to many of the company's peers in the industry and includes numerous health and wellness benefit enhancements and protections offered by the company in an effort to reach an agreement," the release said.

"We have worked tirelessly over the last several weeks to come up with a monetary proposal that is seen by both the company and the union bargaining committee as fair, competitive, and affordable through all points of the steel cycle," said Michael Garcia, Algoma's president and chief executive officer.

"We accomplished this with USW Local 2724, whose bargaining committee and membership approved largely the same offer we have presented to Local 2251. We will continue our efforts to find a way forward that avoids a business interruption.”

The company said its "revised and improved" best and final offer had improvements including:

  • wage and cost of living increases totalling approximately 15.2 per cent over four years, including the most recent cost-of-living-adjustment wage increase, plus increased afternoon, night, and Sunday shift premiums
  • signing bonus of $6,000 for established employees ($1,000 for non-established employees) upon ratification
  • increases in the company's contributions to the defined contribution pension by a total of $1 per hour over four years
  • increase in major medical benefits, including lifetime maximum and visit allotments
  • increase in vision care
  • increase in dental benefits, including improvements to lifetime maximum for orthodontics and crown coverage
  • increase in short-term and long-term disability reduced earnings caps
  • increase in meal and boot allowances
  • increase in retiree health benefits, including increased lifetime maximum, coverage for glucose monitoring systems, and more for hearing aids and eyeglasses

Last week, Local 2251’s membership voted 91 per cent in favour of a strike.

The company announced plans to start idling the mill over the long weekend, but both sides agreed on Saturday July 30 to extend their expired contract for 15 days to allow further discussions.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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