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Mediation talks scheduled for Essar Steel Algoma and USW

Sault steel plant remains under creditor protection
A mediator has scheduled talks later this month for Essar Steel Algoma and the USW to discuss labour issues at its Sault Ste. Marie steel plant.

Mediation talks have been scheduled between Essar Steel Algoma and the United Steelworkers in an effort to come to a labour agreement.

Labour negotiations between the two parties began earlier this year. Unionized workers at the Sault Ste. Marie steel plant voted on Feb. 28 in favour, by 98 per cent, of a strike mandate if a deal could not be reached.

In a March 1 release, the company said mediator Warren Winkler had requested the company not seek a no-board report, which, if issued, would allow the union leave to call a strike.

The company said Winkler has scheduled mediation dates “later this month” between Essar, the USW, and the successful bidder identified through the court-approved sale and investment solicitation process.

"Our focus is on emerging from CCAA as a strong and sustainable advanced steel manufacturer,” said Kalyan Ghosh, Essar Steel Algoma’s CEO, in the release.

“We remain optimistic that a deal can be achieved among all stakeholders that ensures this outcome."

However, in an interview with, Mike Da Prat, president of USW Local 2251, said the union will refuse to meet for mediation.

Da Prat wants clarification on whether the union is negotiating under the Ontario Labour Relations Act or the federal Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

"We will negotiate with one entity. If the CCAA court wants to tell us that we're under the CCAA and we must negotiate with the bidders, then have them indicate that,” he said.

“If, on the other hand, they're saying that the Labour Relations Act applies, we're there now. And we will continue there until someone tells us definitively that, no, you need to go into the CCAA."

Da Prat said the union would not “frivolously” call a strike, but is seeking a fair contract for all unionized workers.

Essar Steel Algoma filed for creditor protection under the CCAA on Nov. 9, 2015 and has been under its operation ever since.

The sale and investment solicitation process to find a new owner-operator of the steel plant was launched on Feb. 11, 2016.