US Steel ends 103 years of steelmaking in Hamilton – by Meredith MacLeod (Hamilton Spectator – October 30, 2013)

Hopes that Hamilton’s U.S. Steel blast furnaces will fire up again have burned out, along with more than a century of steel production at the plant.

The announcement Tuesday that U.S. Steel will permanently cease making iron and steel in Hamilton has been feared since the company idled the mills in October 2010. The final blow came when CEO Mario Longhi told investors Tuesday those operations will wrap up Dec. 31.

“Decisions like this are always difficult, but they are necessary to improve the cost structure of our Canadian operations,” he said. Tuesday’s announcement does not affect rolling, coating and finishing operations, along with coke making, according to Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel.

Forty-seven non-union jobs will be lost, but company spokesperson Courtney Boone said it would try to move staff into other positions. That leaves approximately 600 members of United Steelworkers Local 1005 and about 228 salaried positions at the Hamilton plant.

Mayor Bob Bratina said he hopes to travel to Pittsburgh within days for a “very urgent” conversation with U.S. Steel officials.

Rolf Gerstenberger, Local 1005 president,said he always hoped the firm would restart steelmaking at the plant, but he wasn’t surprised by the move.

“It’s more of the finality of it, that you are written off, if you think about that … You guys aren’t making steel here anymore.”

Steel analyst Chuck Bradford said the move is only a confirmation of what was inevitable.

“The only question I’ve had is, ‘What took so long?’”

He says because the former Hilton Works lacks a hot strip mill, the only thing it could produce was semi-finished steel.
“There is no market for that product at all.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party will fight to protect the jobs that remain.

“When Stelco was sold, it was the last Canadian-owned steel producer in the nation. That sent out alarm bells that it would be a huge loss for our country,” said the MPP for Hamilton Centre. “Years down the road, the result is the federal government had no interest in maintaining steelmaking in Hamilton.”

MPP Paul Miller, a 32-year veteran of Hilton Works, says U.S. Steel has not lived up to commitments made to the federal government when it bought Stelco in 2007 to make it a viable operation and maintain jobs.

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