Province boosts benefits fund to help U.S. Steel pensioners

The province will add $2.65 million to keep a transition fund going to help U.S. Steel Canada retirees with prescription drugs and other urgent medical benefits needs.

Ministry of Finance adds $2.65 million to a pot that started with $3 million

A transition fund meant to ease the burden for pensioners after U.S. Steel Canada cut their benefits last year will be extended. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The province will kick in another $2.65 million to a fund for U.S. Steel Canada pensioners left in the lurch when the company got court approval last fall to stop paying for prescription drug and other health benefits.

The fund, which took effect in January, had an initial contribution of $3 million. That contribution has not yet run out.

It was launched to cover urgent health needs for people who used to work at the Hamilton and Nanticoke steel mills while the company continues its restructuring process in court.

As part of its support, the government is helping people transition to other provincial benefits, like the Trillium plan for retirees.

At a steel rally in January, Doug Mair said the cut to his retiree benefits in October meant he had to switch medications. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)
The announcement comes as the steelworkers union, the company, the province and other stakeholders are negotiating in secret to hammer out a sale with potential buyers. Would-be buyers must balance pension obligations and environmental remediation for decades-old steel mills as they mull the business potential for the beleaguered company.

"Our government remains committed to working with all stakeholders in the restructuring process to achieve the best possible outcome for employees, pensioners, suppliers, customers and the long-term viability of the Canadian operations," said Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa, in a statement.