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One quarter of Algoma Steel workers face temporary layoff

National Environmental Emergencies Centre is providing technical and scientific advice
Mike Da Prat, president of USW Local 2251

Laura Devoni, Algoma Steel's director of corporate affairs and sustainability, has told SooToday that approximately one quarter of the steelmaker's 3,000 employees will be temporarily laid off because of the weekend pipe collapse at its Sault Ste. Marie coke-making facility.

Devoni confirmed a statement made by Mike Da Prat, president of United Steelworkers Local 2251, who said layoffs are imminent "in a number of areas" as repairs are made to the coke ovens and #7 blast furnace, which had to be shut down in the wake of the structural collapse.

"We have begun temporary layoffs," Devoni told us.

"I can't tell you a specific number. But I can tell you 25 per cent of our workforce is what our current estimates are."

"We've already started layoffs as early as today and we're looking at 25 per cent," Devoni said.

"We've had experience with this; we have experts on staff and have consulted experts. I can't give you specific technical details, but the team is confident and working to get the blast furnace up and running in two weeks."

Laid-off workers would start to return after that work is completed, she said.

In a Jan. 24 news release, Sault MP Terry Sheehan said: "I have... been in contact with Service Canada, and they will help to communicate the available resources and benefits to all eligible Algoma steelworkers who face work stoppages."

Sheehan added that the National Environmental Emergencies Centre is providing technical and scientific advice to Ontario's Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, which is the lead agency responding to the weekend incident.

The following is the full text of Mike Da Prat's message today to his Local 2251 membership.

As everyone is aware there was a major incident at the coke ovens.

A section of the coke oven suction main collapsed on Saturday January 20, 2024, which negatively affected production at the coke ovens.

Due to the fact that the #7 blast furnace had to be shut down on an emergency there are issues with the furnace also.

Repairs have commenced at #7 blast furnace.

I received a call from management at approximately 7:30 a.m. today.

I was informed that a plan for repairs to the coke ovens is being developed and that work at #7 blast furnace had commenced.

During the call I was also informed that layoffs would be imminent in a number of areas.

It became necessary for me to inform management that during a major layoff of this nature extraordinary efforts must be taken to provide records of employment immediately and that it is customary for the company to arrange with El to have intake sites for our members to apply for benefits.

The union was informed this morning that shifts were being cancelled and some of our members were being sent home.

It is important that our members are aware that bumping rights exist within the collective agreement.

If you are being sent home, ask supervision whether there are junior people continuing to work on jobs that provide bumping rights to senior workers.

If you require any assistance, please contact the Union Hall at 705-942-3900

Your union executive are fully involved in attempting to address our members' concerns in a timely and organized fashion.

We will provide updates as the information becomes available to the union.

Please be advised that the union has developed a contact list using personal emails from our members.

This guarantees that our members receive the most up-to-date information regarding important matters that affect them.

The union does not use the Algoma Intranet as management must pre-approve the union's content.

We do not have 100 per cent of the members' personal email addresses.

Please share this message with your co-workers.

In Solidarity,

Mike Da Prat, president

— SooToday