Broken promises and impotent government hurt Hamilton [Steel Industry] – by Tim Harper (Toronto Star – October 10, 2011)

The Toronto Star, has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

OTTAWA – A grim anniversary passed unmarked last week in a once-proud steel town. It was one year ago that Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel began its shutdown of the blast furnace at the former Stelco in Hamilton, a precursor to its lockout of 900 workers a month later.

One year later, the workers remain on the street and the 2007 U.S. Steel purchase of Stelco remains the neon sign advertising the inadequacies of a toothless and secretive Investment Canada Act.

U.S. Steel is now threatening a permanent shutdown at its Hamilton Works and the federal government, which allowed the takeover, is powerless to do anything about it.

The two sides return to the bargaining table Monday morning, but there appears to have been little movement from either the American company or Local 1005 of the United Steelworkers.

“Having talks is better than not having talks,” says 1005 president Rolf Gerstenberger.

The American company promised that its takeover would provide a “net benefit” to Canada, including the maintenance of employment levels and production.

It has done neither, blaming the 2008 economic downturn for its broken promises while fighting Ottawa in court, tying up the government’s bid to fine it for breaking its word.

It has been more than two years since Ottawa took the steelmaker to court.

Former industry minister Tony Clement talked tough at the time, vowing Ottawa would not simply “roll over” and let potential foreign investors think they can make and break promises with impunity.

That’s exactly what the American company has done.

The latest faceoff between the company and the government — which seeks penalties of $10,000 per day — is not expected to be heard in Federal Court until 2012.

The NDP and organized labour in this country have long argued for revisions to the Investment Act, arguing that “net benefits” are determined in closed-door meetings between industry and government, shutting out members of the community affected and, most crucially, representatives of the workers.

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