Recession hits steel in Sault, mining supply in Sudbury (CBC News Sudbury – October 22, 2015)

‘Commodity prices better change pretty soon,’ Sudbury mining supply official says

While there is some debate about whether or not Canada is in a recession, people in northeastern Ontario are feeling a downturn, with hundreds of layoffs over the last few months.

Some of the largest layoffs have been in the steel industry at Sault Ste. Marie. Essar Steel Algoma has laid off 100 workers, with notice that 80 more could come soon.

The other large local steelmaker, Tenaris Tubes, already has 270 workers on layoff and at the end of the month, a temporary shutdown will some of the remaining 230 employees on temporary lay-off, but the company expects to start calling them all back to work in late November.

Russell Rancourt was laid off at Tenaris in February and was hoping to get called back. He’s looked for other work in the region and out west, but has found nothing.

“No one’s hiring right now. Unfortunately, the way the economy’s going right now, everyone’s on lock-down waiting for what oil prices are going to do,” said the 31-year-old.

Rancourt has gone back to school. His tuition is covered by the provincial government. He’s studying mechanical engineering and hoping that, when the steel business picks back up again, he can move into a management job.

He said he feels that boom and bust cycles are just part of life in northern Ontario.

“I wish it was better than that, but that’s what it is. Every couple of years you’re going to have a downturn,” said Rancourt.

“We get paid well and compensated well when we are working and it’s just part of the life.”

Quiet cutbacks in Sudbury mining supply sector

Jack Ostroski, a regional representative with the United Steelworkers in the Sault, said the whole city is feeling these layoffs, including everything from slower hockey registrations to fears about Christmas shopping.

“We’re basically a two horse town. And when they’re affected, everybody’s affected. Right down to the soup kitchens. It just never ends,” he said.

In Sudbury, mining companies KGHM and First Nickel have shuttered mines with the drop in mineral prices, leading to about 150 layoffs, but some of the larger cuts have been in the mining supply sector.

Dick DeStefano, executive director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association, said most firms don’t like to discuss layoffs, but he’s heard of lots of companies, especially engineering and consulting outfits, shedding jobs.

He estimates it could be as many as 300 laid off so far in the Sudbury area and fears it could get worse if there isn’t a turnaround soon.

“Commodity prices better change pretty soon. I would suggest we have until Christmas and if there’s no start-up again, we’re going to have problems with our supply industry,” he said.

Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce chair Karen Hourtovenko said she’s heard of a few members cutting back, but said most are just in a holding pattern and aren’t filling vacant jobs.

“Most businesses are hesitant to hire people because they’re not sure where we’re going,” she said.

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