March 22, 2019
The federal government and all parliamentarians must be united in refusing to ratify the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) unless U.S. tariffs and quotas on Canadian steel and aluminum are rejected outright, United Steelworkers (USW) leaders say.
Meeting with workers today in Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean, Canada’s aluminum heartland, USW Canadian Director Ken Neumann and Quebec Director Alain Croteau called for a clear and resolute position from the federal government in support of the domestic steel and aluminum industries.
“The federal government, Prime Minister Trudeau himself, and all party leaders must be very clear with the Americans that this trade agreement will not be ratified until tariffs and quotas are removed from the equation,” Neumann and Croteau said in a joint statement.
The Steelworkers leaders plan to meet with all political party leaders to call for a united front in refusing USMCA ratification until tariffs and quotas are rejected outright in any resolution of the trade dispute with the U.S.
“There must be very clear unanimity on this issue, well before the next election campaign,” they said.
The USW leaders met today with workers at Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter in Alma affected by the baseless U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminum exports.
Uncertainty caused by the existing U.S. tariffs, as well as speculation about possible quotas to replace the tariffs, are threatening investment in Canada, with reports that a plan to build a new aluminum billet plant in Alma has been put on hold, the USW says.
United Steelworkers leaders on both sides of the border have opposed the U.S. tariffs on Canadian products from the beginning.
“Tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel are unacceptable. Canada is a good trading partner of the United States and our steel and aluminum markets are highly integrated,” said USW International president Leo W. Gerard.
“Workers in both countries are adversely affected by the tariffs. Tariffs are harmful not only to aluminum smelters, steel mills, processors and manufacturers in Canada, but they also have serious repercussions in the United States. The automotive industry, all the manufacturing plants that use our metals and ultimately American consumers are paying a high price,” Neumann said.
“This is all so unproductive. It’s not resulting in new aluminum smelters magically appearing in the United States. So while the Trump administration drags this out, jobs are being threatened in steel and aluminum here and expansion projects are being put on hold,” Croteau said.
In the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region alone, tariffs are costing more than $50 million per month, while the prospect of quotas casts a shadow over expansion projects and threatens new job creation, the USW says.
“It seems everything is slowing down due to the American tariffs and the fear is that they will be replaced by quotas, as the American administration wants,” said Alexandre Fréchette, President of Steelworkers Local 9490, representing the Alma aluminum workers.
“The shadow hanging over the new billet plant here is a direct effect of the tariffs,” Fréchette said. “This uncertainty must be resolved quickly. We will put pressure on elected officials to make clear commitments. It’s all well and good to try to get the Americans to see the light, but the time has come for our elected officials to take real action.”
The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, with more than 60,000 workers in all sectors of the economy, including 3,000 in the aluminum industry. The United Steelworkers represents more than 225,000 workers across Canada.