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Local 6500's Rick Bertrand supports Sault workers as they face possible strike

Essar Steel workers holding strike vote later this month
Mike Da Prat, United Steelworkers Local 2251 president, with USW Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand, USW Local 2724 President Lisa Dale and Joe Krmpotich, USW Local 2251 union coordinator, Feb. 9, 2017. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Essar Steel Algoma employees represented by United Steelworkers Locals 2251 and 2724 are getting some out of town support and advice in preparation for a possible strike.

“We asked members of (USW Local) 6500 to come and tell us of their experiences and provide us some information on what we should do for (strike) preparation,” said Mike Da Prat, speaking to SooToday Thursday.

“In 2009 we were on strike for close to a year at Vale (in Sudbury), it was a long strike, so we came here to support the steelworkers here in the Sault and share what we went through,” said Rick Bertrand, USW Local 6500 president, at a union meeting held at Grand Gardens Thursday.

“There’s a lot of preparation for when you go on strike, so it’s important not just to build solidarity together but also to ensure they’re prepared for a strike against a large company,” Bertrand said.

“We’re prepared to support them 100 per cent whatever happens, whether its monetary, sending buses of people here, we’re definitely behind them.”

As reported earlier by SooToday USW Local 2251 has called a strike vote for Tuesday, Feb. 28.

United Steelworkers Local 2251 has told 2,100 members that the vote will be taken at the Marconi Hall on that date, from 5 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The union will provide an update on negotiations at special membership meetings at the Quattro Conference Centre on Thursday Feb. 23, at 9:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

“We’re very similar with 2251 but we’ve been at the table bargaining  for an extra few weeks…at this point we’ve done some basic surface bargaining,” said Lisa Dale, USW Local 2724 president, adding her union’s own deadline is looming.  

Da Prat pointed out an extra feature to the latest round of bargaining.

Bargaining is taking place as the company restructures.

“We are bargaining with the employer, which is Essar Steel Algoma, but it doesn’t necessarily bind a future buyer, so even if we reach an agreement with Algoma, a future buyer might not accept the deal and we’d have to negotiate again.”

“As far as 2251 is concerned we were dealing with potential bidders, and out of the blue on Jan. 9, we were informed now the employer was getting involved and working toward a no board report if necessary.”

The same applies to Local 2724, Dale said. 

“We’re upset,” Da Prat said.

“This is like no other restructuring we’ve done and this is our third one.  Every other one was done cooperatively with the unions every step of the way. This one? Anything but.”

“There’s no joint effort, this time that’s lacking, its very one sided,” Dale said.