Labour Minister a no-show on US Steel questions Assistant acknowledges need for, “better protection”

For Immediate Release:
February 23, 2010

Queens Park – While government continues to play hot potato with questions regarding any action on the year-long US Steel Lake Erie Works labour dispute, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett was able to prompt somewhat of a response in a “late show” debate at the Ontario Legislature.

Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Labour, Mr. Lorenzo Berardinetti revealed that while he feels it is, “the responsibility of the employer and the union to resolve their differences”, the Labour Minister has made, “special arrangements to sit down, one on one, with his federal counterpart, Minister Raitt, to discuss better protection for Ontarians who are not working.”
“He also raised the need for better protection with all provincial and territorial Ministers of Labour at the annual meeting,” Berardinetti concluded.

“Better protection for Ontarians” references Barrett’s December 2009 question in which he pointed out a loophole in assistance programs that means many locked out at US Steel, “can’t collect severance and they can’t qualify for EI or Ontario works…”

Meantime, Barrett pointed out last night that, those out of work are continuing to ask questions that are going unanswered.
“This Saturday I was asked by some of the fellows out front to try and find out how this government thinks the investment of $150 million into the former Stelco pensions has gone over,” Barrett reported. “Has US Steel returned the loan or is this just seen as another incentive to keep them doing business in Ontario? So my question there is: How is that one working out? How is it working out for well over 1,000 people suffering the impacts of close to one year now where we have had a layoff and a lockout?”

“Steelworkers also wonder if this government has simply chalked up Lake Erie Works and this massive workforce as out of sight, out of mind-a world-class steelmaking facility out of the eyesight of Queen’s Park, obviously,” Barrett continued. “The worry is: Are they prepared to continue just to forget about what’s going on down there? We’ve seen this with Caledonia, just up the road.”

While the Parliamentary Assistant at least attempted to respond to Barrett’s queries, he provided little in the way of any real direction.

“Our ministry has met with the executive of United Steelworkers of America Local 8782, as they approached us with a number of questions related to their members’ ability to access certain government programs,”stated Berardinetti. “While bargaining can be difficult and stressful, they must ultimately set aside their differences and work toward a compromise. Only then can a lasting agreement between US Steel Canada and the Steelworkers be reached.”

Barrett had requested the “late-show” debate after filing, “notice of dissatisfaction” with answers to questions to Labour Minister Peter Fonseca on Thursday regarding government action at US Steel.

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For more information, please contact MPP Toby Barrett at
(519) 428-0446 or (905)-765-8413, 1-800-903-8629