I urge the parties to have meaningful negotiations of the issues surrounding a collective agreement and leave public discussion of the negotiations or threats of action out of it."The time for strategic manoeuvring is long past. The public interest, including Algoma, its employees and retirees, its creditors, the City of Sault Ste. Marie and the province, demands that the parties now bargain in good faith to achieve a settlement. Failure to do so could be disastrous for the entire public interest.
I am writing to you in my capacity as counsel to the court-appointed monitor, Ernst & Young Inc., in the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act proceedings of Essar Steel Algoma Inc.I do so on the direction of Mr. Justice Newbould, the presiding judge in these proceedings.A case conference was held this afternoon where Mr. Justice Newbould raised concerns about confusion that may have been caused by recent articles in your newspaper with respect to the mediation that he has ordered in these proceedings.In order to clarify the record, counsel to all parties who were in attendance at the case conference on March 6, 2017, have signed the attached document with respect to the consensual endorsement made by Mr. Justice Newbould on that date.We trust that you will see fit to assist in setting the record straight by publishing the attached document.I can confirm to you that I have received confirmation of signed pages from the parties listed.- Derrick C. Tay
We have received a number of calls from our members regarding your article “Statement regarding Essar Steel Algoma mediation order."
Our members are confused due to the fact that they are under the impression that the document reported on in your article is a working document of the order dated March 6, 2017.
It is our belief that that is in fact not the case.
The order, as attached, remains the order and the document titled “Statement from stakeholders regarding mediation," is merely a narrative.
I refer you to both documents and simply beg the question that if the statement document correctly reflects what the counsels consented to, why is the order different?
Obviously, the consent document must reference events that pre-date the order.
I believe it is important to correct the impression our members are getting from your article.
Da Prat told us: "The so-called working paper says we can talk to our members while the order, which is later, says we cannot talk to any person of any kind. Furthermore the working paper says the talks commence in Toronto while the order says we stay until such time the mediator decides....It cannot be reported that we can speak with our members unless the order itself is amended through specific language changes."
Judge says Da Prat is wrong
I understand that... the president of Local 2251 continues to take the position that the negotiating committee is unable to discuss the negotiations in the mediation with its membership.To be clear, there is no basis for the president of Local 2251 to take that position.The order of March 6, 2017 was to prevent public discussions, not prevent discussions with the membership of the locals.As acknowledged by counsel on March 6, 2017 and again on March 8, 2017, including counsel for Local 2251, the purpose of the order was to prevent the negotiations from effectively taking place in the media.There are to be no artificial barriers to the mediation that has been ordered to take place.While it should not be necessary, in order to achieve that end, I order and reiterate as follows:
1) The mediation is to be held in private without any public pronouncements or discussions of any nature or kind by any person, including the executive or membership of Locals 2724 or 2251.
2) The negotiating committees of those locals may discuss the negotiations that take place in the mediation with their membership on the condition that the membership is advised of the order preventing any public pronouncements or discussions of any nature or kind regarding the negotiations.
Local 2251's secret resolution
At a series of special meetings held on Tuesday, the membership of Local 2251 overwhelmingly approved a resolution on the mediation process, although SooToday is advised that the wording was altered from the original draft.
Da Prat issued a news release about the resolution, but he's unwilling to release the specific wording.
"I'm not really releasing any more than what I did in the press release," Da Prat told us.
"The press is going to have to fight for freedom of the press. I'm getting tired of fighting the judge all by myself. I believe that he's infringing on the right of the press to get news," he said.
Signature questioned on Essar Capital letter
One other aspect of SooToday's coverage has become an issue in the Essar Steel Algoma insolvency case.
A letter, purportedly written by Essar Global Fund on January 28 and filed the following day as part of a court affidavit by a lawyer representing Essar Capital, was published by SooToday on February 2.
The letter is the only known document from Essar Global indicating an interest in re-acquiring Essar Steel Algoma, but Judge Newbould points out that it was never sent directly to the monitor and he's questioning the curious signature (see illustration above):
While the Essar Global letter appears to have been signed, there is no information on the face of it as to who executed the letter or what position the person executing the letter holds with Essar Global.... The monitor has no record of having received the letter other than as an exhibit to the... affidavit.
The letter, however, was quoted on January 28, 2017 in the SooToday, a local newspaper in Sault Ste. Marie.... Who provided the letter to the SooToday is not in the record but it is passing strange that the letter on Essar Global letterhead with a Cayman Island address and signed by an indecipherable signature was dated the same day that the letter appeared in the local newspaper.If it truly was a letter from Essar Global and Essar Global was honestly trying to engage the monitor, it was not any kind of way to do that.I find it hard to give any kind of bona fide credit to the letter.I agree with the monitor that negotiating through the press, which tends to be not only unproductive but may well be harmful to the process of navigating Algoma successfully through the CCAA proceedings by the dissemination of untested allegations and causing unwarranted confusion among the stakeholders, will likely have a deleterious effect on Algoma and its business.
As SooToday reported earlier this week, Essar Algoma wants to regain control of the Algoma.com domain, which is hosted though a Net4 India account controlled by Jayantha Prabhu, Essar Group's chief information officer.
On Tuesday, Judge Newbould prohibited Essar Steel Algoma, Essar Steel India or any related company from trying to change the domain's legal ownership or registrant information until the dispute is resolved.