Angry Hamilton steelworkers demand answers from Bratina at rally
Frustrated Hamilton steelworkers and pensioners scorched local Liberal MP Bob Bratina’s ears on a bitterly cold day as they demanded results from a federal government they say has ignored their pleas of help.
About 100 protesters attended a late-afternoon rally Thursday outside Bratina’s Centennial Parkway constituency office accusing the Liberals of ignoring steelworkers and pensioners.
“You have been there a year and nothing has been introduced, ” Vince Van Schyndel, a member of Local 1005, told Bratina after he waded into the decidedly hostile crowd to hear steelworkers’ complaints. Van Schyndel said the federal Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) legislation is preventing the provincial government from providing benefits and pensions to pensioners.
On Dec. 15, 2016 a judge agreed to allow U.S. Steel Canada to negotiate a purchase agreement with the American-based Bedrock Industries Group. In addition, the judge dismissed objections from United Steelworkers Union Local 1005, the City of Hamilton and salaried workers, arguing their issues can be resolved in the future.
The steelworkers believe any restructuring plan will hurt them and the pensioners because pensions and benefits are being ignored in the complicated bankruptcy process. Union officials have stated company pension funds need more than $1 billion to top up underfunded pension and health care benefits plans.
Gary Howe, president of Local 1005, said the CCAA “has been used to take things away from the people that worked many, many years to earn them.”
Bratina, who represents Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, apologized to the gathering and acknowledged it is difficult to introduce legislation as one MP.
He said once the company emerges from the CCAA process, the federal government could help its successor become sustainable.
“I’m sorry that we are in the situation we are in, ” said Bratina, a member of the federal government’s steel caucus. “I don’t blame you guys for being upset. But we will be working hard to make sure the right thing is done.”
He said Ottawa will change the Canadian Pension Plan to increase benefits to $20,000 from $13,000 for those who don’t have a company pension. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)