News

Deal for U.S. Steel has 'a couple miles to go'

Daniel R. Pearce

By Daniel R. Pearce, Simcoe Reformer

U.S. Steel Nanticoke plant. (Simcoe Reformer file photo)

U.S. Steel Nanticoke plant. (Simcoe Reformer file photo)

SIMCOE - 

The head of the union at Nanticoke's steel-making plant is reacting with caution to the news a New York-based holding company is trying to buy the beleaguered facility.

“The deal is very possible. I think it would be a good deal. But it's very, very speculative,” said Bill Ferguson, president of United Steelworkers Local 8782, which represents about 900 workers at the U.S. Steel Canada plant.

Ferguson called Wednesday's announcement a “positive movement in the right direction” but warned there are “still a lot of hurdles” to clear before the deal goes through.

Bedrock Industries, which has offices in Miami and New York City, has stepped forward to try to acquire U.S. Steel Canada's operations in Hamilton and Nanticoke.

The two plants have been living under a cloud of uncertainty since U.S. Steel Canada went into court-supervised creditor protection in September 2014.

To acquire them, Bedrock will have to negotiate new deals with unions as well as the U.S. Steel parent in Pittsburgh, which is owed $2.2 billion, noted Ferguson.

“It's not a final act,” he said. “There's still a couple of miles to go.”

Ferguson said he has met officials from Bedrock, a privately-held holding company backed by deep-pocketed investors, and liked them.

“I think they're straight shooters. I think we can do business with them,” he said.

Bedrock has interests in metals, mining, and natural resources, but U.S. Steel Canada would be its biggest foray into the metals industry, said Ferguson.

If the deal goes ahead, it would come as a relief to the communities of Haldimand and Norfolk counties.

Nanticoke is a major employer for both municipalities and a pays Haldimand $2.3 million a year in property taxes.

The plant was owned by the former Stelco until it was bought in 2007 by U.S. Steel. Since then, it has been through a series of ups and downs, including two lockouts and a shutdown.

Rumours circulated the plant could be doomed, particularly after the steel industry went into a worldwide downturn.

The steel sector picked up in Canada recently, however, after the federal government stepped in with tariffs to counteract dumping by steelmakers from China, the Ukraine, and Turkey, noted Ferguson.

He called for Ottawa to ensure trade deals for all sectors of the economy to be made “fair” with “checks and balances.”

DPearce@postmedia.com