Hamilton

Hamilton MP Bratina said 'f--k' steelworkers and Stelco pensioners' at meeting: union

A Hamilton steelworkers union is demanding an apology after it says Liberal MP Bob Bratina shouted obscenities at some steelworkers and kicked them out of his office.

Bratina says 'the conversation became personal' at Tuesday's meeting

Local steelworker union heads claim MP Bob Bratina of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek shouted expletives at some steelworkers and kicked them out of his office. (John Rennison/Canadian Press)

A Hamilton steelworkers union says at the end of a tense meeting Tuesday, Liberal MP Bob Bratina shouted "f--k the steelworkers" and "f--k those Stelco pensioners." 

Two United Steelworkers Union (USW) locals issued a news release Wednesday saying some steelworkers went to Bratina's Ottawa office to talk about worker benefits and pensions.

They say, in a letter sent to Bratina, that he shouted "f--k the steelworkers" and "f--k those Stelco pensioners" before "demanding they leave [his] office" and "violently" slamming the door behind them.

The union is demanding an apology from Bratina, a former mayor of Hamilton.

The Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MP didn't address the specific details, but he acknowledged the Tuesday meeting was tense.

In an emailed statement, Bratina said he met with the Canadian Labour Congress Tuesday, including members of the steelworker locals. 

"During the course of this meeting, the conversation became personal," said Bratina, who chairs an all-party steel caucus.

"It was clear that a productive conversation was not going to take place and I ended the meeting. As they were leaving, I assured them that we would continue to work hard for steelworkers and their employers despite this meeting."

Bob Bratina, far right, visited ArcelorMittal Dofasco last summer with Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas MP and Minister of Seniors Filomena Tassi. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

USW Local 1005 president Gary Howe said the members questioned Bratina about bankruptcy and insolvency laws.

"When they asked him why he hasn't kept his promise to advocate on behalf of Hamilton steelworkers to get the laws changed, he lost his temper and started shouting obscenities and saying very nasty things about steelworkers," Howe said in a news release.

Tony Ciaramella, president of Local 5328, said in the release that the steelworkers asked "a legitimate question."

"Not once has he stood in the house and said anything about changing the laws and protecting current or retired steelworkers," Ciaramella said. 

​In an email, Howe and Ciaramella demand that Bratina "do the right thing and publicly apologize immediately and unreservedly."

Current and retired steelworkers have faced a wave of uncertainty in recent years. That wave has included recent tariffs imposed by the Trump administration in the U.S. that had some fearing for their jobs. In 2016, U.S. Steel Canada went into Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) protection, and steelworker pensioners' health-care benefits were temporarily paused.

Bratina, like other Hamilton MPs, campaigned on helping steelworkers, and has attended rallies both as an MP and when he was mayor of Hamilton. 

Bratina said in the email that he respects unions, which "play a key role in upholding the rights and protections of Canadian workers."

"Canada's labour movement has led the way on work-life balance, safe working conditions and employment equity and diversity. Our government shares many of the same values and beliefs as the labour movement, and we need to continue working together to build on the success of the past three years."

Scott Duvall, NDP MP for Hamilton Mountain, also serves on the all-party steel caucus. He's also a retired steelworker who recently introduced Bill 384, which would see pensioners become secure creditors when a company liquidates. 

Duvall said news of the clash between Bratina and the steelworkers rippled through a Canadian Labour Congress social he attended. 

"When I heard it, I was shocked," he said. 

Duvall served on Hamilton city council when Bratina was mayor, he said, and "he's had a few outbursts before."

David Sweet, Conservative MP for Flamborough-Glanbrook, is vice-chair of the caucus.

He agrees more needs to be done for steelworkers and pensioners, although he wants to see a "full hearing" into the three acts that impact pensions.

He declined to comment on the incident. "I'll let Mr. Bratina defend himself on that."

But, he said, when anybody is visiting a public office holder, there should be "a high threshold of tolerance" before they're told to leave.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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