Possible strike at Algoma Steel starting next week

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Possible strike at Algoma Steel starting next week

Algoma Steel is one of the largest employers in the Sault Ste. Marie area. (Archives)

Two thousand Algoma Steel workers in Sault Ste. Marie could go on strike as early as next week if no agreement is reached by Sunday.

Members of the largest steelworkers' union, United Steelworkers Local 2251, began a strike vote on Wednesday. It is to continue every day until Saturday.

The workers' collective agreement expires on July 31.

The union held an information session with members on Wednesday morning and another to be held in the evening.

Local president Mike Da Prat says the union recommends its members vote to strike.

General sentiment is anger at the position taken by the #x27;company, says Mr. Da Prat, whose union represents employees paid by the hour.

Mike Da Prat of the United Steelworkers in Sault Ste. Marie that the employees worked with the company in difficult times, but that its income increased in an unprecedented way.

The union had already obtained a strong strike mandate at the beginning of the month.

For a proposed three-year deal, the union is asking for increases of 6% for the first two years and 4% for the third.

According to the union, Algoma Steel was instead offering allowances for cost of living increases, as well as a wage increase of 0.5% the first year and $1.35 per hour for each of the following two years.

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On Monday, Algoma Steel said in a statement that discussions are ongoing between the company and hourly workers represented by Steelworkers Local 2251, and the company continues to work to reach an agreement before the expiry of the contract.

This statement was made after the ratification of a new contract of employment by the members of Local Lodge 2724 of the Union Steelworkers, which represents technical workers, professionals and supervisors.

Local president Rebecca McCracken says members voted 59.9% in favor of the three-year deal.

Professor of Management and Law of the University of Ottawa Gilles LeVasseur believes that the two parties cannot afford a strike or a lockout.

According to the expert, there is beginning to be a drop in demand for steel in certain sectors of the economy, and investments of almost half a billion dollars will have to be made during the next few years at the plant, particularly for the electrification of production processes.

Professor of management and law Gilles LeVasseur, of the University of Ottawa

The danger, when salaries rise too quickly and you don't have the income to cover expenses and to make a profit to invest in the plant is that, in the long term, it creates a lot of tension. It is expected that there will be cuts as soon as there is a drop in demand for steel, he says.

Mr. LeVasseur recalls that employees have received very high performance bonuses in recent years, which constitutes profit sharing.

With information from Ezra Belotte- Cousineau

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