Ford promises pension ‘regulatory relief’ for Algoma steelworkers

Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford is pledging his support for Ontario steelworkers and their pensions in the wake of the United States’ government’s 25 per cent tariff on Canadian steel.

In an announcement last week to Algoma Steel Inc. employees in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Ford said the provincial government would be helping in the form of regulatory relief from certain pension obligations under the Pension Benefits Act, in addition to coverage from the pension benefits guarantee fund, pending certain conditions.

Read: Stelco’s long battle on the pension precipice 

While the provincial government hasn’t provided further details on what exactly the support will entail, Ford said during his announcement that “negotiations are ongoing and more information about how Ontario is supporting Algoma will be announced as soon as we can.”

Currently, Algoma’s defined benefit pension plan has 2,100 active members and 6,300 former employees and retirees.

Meanwhile, the United Steelworkers union is urging the federal government to support legislation that would protect pensions and benefits in cases of corporate bankruptcy and insolvency. For the next two weeks, union members will be meeting with parliamentarians to discuss legislation aimed at reforming the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

Read: B.C. launches consultation on new options for pension solvency funding

Scott Duvall, member of parliament for Hamilton Mountain, and Marilène Gill, member of parliament for Manicouagan, have each put forward bills that would give priority to pension members where an employer has filed for bankruptcy or insolvency and its pension plan is underfunded.

“Workers and pensioners need to be treated as preferred creditors in bankruptcy cases,” said Nicolas Lapierre, United Steelworkers co-ordinator in Quebec’s North Shore region, in a press release. “It doesn’t make sense for banks and other financial institutions to take precedence over men and women who have worked their entire lives to earn their pensions and benefits. Politicians can make a fundamental difference in the lives of people who are being betrayed because our bankruptcy laws do not protect them.”

Read: Feds must act to protect Sears’ Canadian pensioners: CARP