Hamilton U.S. Steel workers ratify contract

Workers will receive $3,000 lump sum payment, no wage increase

Workers locked out of Hamilton’s U.S. Steel plant for 11 months have ratified a three-year contract with the company. Voting 61 per cent in favour of the agreement, the 900 workers will return to work on Oct. 18.

While the agreement does not contain any wage increases over the term of the contract, a $3,000 ratification bonus will be paid out to the employees.

One of the key issues in the dispute was the company’s demand to introduce a defined-contribution (DC) pension plan for new employees. The union wanted to keep the current defined-benefit (DB) plan. Under the new agreement, however, new hires will be placed in a union-administered Group RRSP that will see U.S. Steel contribute $2.50 per hour worked for each employee. The union also lost its demand to retain pension indexing for current employees. Instead, U.S. Steel will make a one-time lump-sum cash payment of $1,000 in lieu of annual pension indexing to retirees who make less than $1,500 per month.

A profit-sharing plan for active employees will be introduced, paid out from a pool of money totaling 6.5 per cent of the Hamilton plant profits above $25 million, capped at a quarterly payment of $3,500 per worker.

All workers will be recalled and receive credited service for the 11 months of the lockout, making some employees closer to being eligible to retire. Employees have also been guaranteed 26 weeks of employment at 40 hours per week in future. This is an improvement on U.S. Steel’s September proposal which altered call-back language that would have left many workers without jobs after the lockout.

Neither party has officially commented on the ratification, but in a statement on its website last week, the union hinted at being somewhat disappointed with the final outcome:

“We have made a huge effort so that the members can make an informed vote on whether to accept or reject this contract,” the notice reads. “We wanted to ensure that they are fully aware of the situation they face and of the responsibilities towards not just themselves and their families, but also towards the retirees, the future generation of workers, their union and their community. This whole process has shown that there are serious challenges facing us going forward.”

The U.S. Steel workers are members of the United Steelworkers Union, Local 1005 and were locked out of the facility in November 2010.

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