City revives old steel committee to talk pensions and jobs

The city hopes to get a feel for the future of steel with a newly revived committee that will have its first meeting on Thursday.
The city is reviving a dormant steel committee to discuss the future of the steel industry. Last week, U.S. Steel announced that it would permanently close the local blast furnace and permanently halt its steel making in Hamilton. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city hopes to look out for Hamilton pensions, jobs and the future of steel with a newly revived steel committee that will have its first meeting on Thursday.

Prompted to U.S. Steel’s move to halt iron and steel making in Hamilton, committee members will discuss how to engage union leaders and the corporation itself.

The goal is to stay on top of changes in the industry and “see how we can help” maintain jobs and pensions, Coun. Scott Duvall said.

This is the first time the committee has met since at least 2010. Its revival happened after U.S. Steel announced on Oct. 29 that its dormant iron and steel making operations in Hamilton will permanently close by the end of 2013.

The move affects 47 non-union jobs. It also means the loss of hope that the former steel-making jobs — once numbering in the thousands — would ever return.

Among the city’s questions:

  • Is U.S. Steel violating a 2011 out-of-court settlement to invest in Canada’s steel industry?
  • Can the company keep up with its obligation to pay the pensions of some 8,000 Hamilton-area retirees?
  • What do union and U.S. Steel officials think will happen next?

“It’s just to get information,” Duvall said of the meeting. “Where should we go? Can the city play a role in helping out?”

Mayor Bob Bratina said last week that he hoped to meet with senior officials from U.S. Steel to discuss the company’s tax assessment and the future of its waterfront land.

The company knows that the city will request a meeting, said Peggy Chapman, Bratina’s chief of staff. But the steel committee will meet first to discuss strategy. 

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