Unionized workers at Essar Steel Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie have voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike if an agreement cannot be reached between USW Local Union 2251 and the company by the end of day today.
The two parties have been in contract negotiations since earlier this year, and voted in favour of a strike mandate on Feb. 23.
Voter turnout was at an all-time high, with 1,896 ballots cast. Of those, 1,851 voted yes, while 43 voted no. Two ballots were spoiled.
“The members of Local Union 2251 have repeatedly responded to the company's requests in time of need,” said Mike Da Prat, Local 2251 president, in a March 1 statement.
“By this vote, they have stated emphatically that they are prepared to negotiate a collective agreement that makes sense and is fair to all.”
De Prat has said the company is seeking wage cuts, the elimination of cost-of-living increases, and a reduction in paid vacations.
“The members of Local Union 2251 and their bargaining committee are looking for a collective agreement that is fair to all the workers,” Da Prat said.
“It is appropriate that the members that have given so much are entitled to a fair collective agreement that provides them a share when the market makes the company profitable.”
If the workers do strike, it would mark the first time for labour action at the Sault steel plant since 1990, when the company was still operating as Algoma Steel. At that time, workers were off the job for 110 days.
The following year, then-owner Dofasco abandoned its interest in the Algoma mill, forcing it to seek protection from its creditors under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).
The steel company has been under creditor protection twice more: once in 2002 and again in 2015, the latter of which remains in effect.