October 7th, 2015, Hamilton, ON – Mayor Eisenberger remains firmly behind the retirees and current workforce of US Steel Canada.
Following his request on September 18th for a response from all parties in the federal election to the question “what actions are they prepared to take to protect all involved” he has issued the following open letter.
Hamilton has a long and storied past of making steel; and I am confident that steel-making in our city will continue long into the future. Having said that, we all know that times are uncertain and globalization is part of what we as governments must constantly address.
A potential court decision signifying that US Steel Canada would be relieved from paying nearly $6M in municipal taxes would be significant. A court ruling as such would also signal a profound impact to our community in many ways.
Indeed, US Steel Canada pays approximately $6M in taxes to the City. And if a ruling were to be made, beginning in 2016, those tax payments will cease. The loss of $6M a year (equivalent to a 1% tax increase) compounded year after year would have a tremendously negative impact on the City’s finances.
But this issue goes far beyond tax revenues for the City; this speaks to the effect of a potentially higher and higher property tax bill on our workers, pensioners and senior citizens; who are our friends, family and neighbours.
There are approximately 7000 US Steel Canada pensioners living in Hamilton who are already feeling the stress and anxiety of the bankruptcy proceedings which could cut and/or eliminate their pensions and health benefits. The ripple effect of pension and benefit reductions, coupled with higher property taxes is a serious concern that cannot be ignored. Those 7000 pensioners also have spouses and families.
We’re looking at direct and indirect impacts to tens of thousands of citizens.
The City of Hamilton Steel Sub-Committee, along with a united Council, has been studying and reporting the social impacts to our community for quite some time. The committee deserves recognition; and their hard work on this matter will continue.
We have seen such potentially negative outcomes before in Ontario, notably when the auto sector went through similar proceedings. Their bankruptcy process also affected tens of thousands of people in communities throughout Ontario. Like the auto sector, US Steel operations also has direct and indirect impacts on many other communities and cities in the province.
In those cases, the Provincial and Federal Governments realized the ramifications of a failing auto sector and intervened to protect pensioners and workers. 20,000 people in Hamilton and the golden horseshoe is also significant, and requires immediate action. Those numbers are startling, and I would suggest even more serious considering who is impacted.
Right now, no one is talking about the seriousness of this issue. While the issues are being addresses in the courts, our government officials and the leadership in the sector must realize how significant the issue is and must take action. We need reassurance that a plan is in place for our most significant and impacted residents.
We call on the Federal and Provincial governments to collectively commit now to ensuring that USS pensioners, employees and the City of Hamilton are protected during these trying times.
City of Hamilton
City of Hamilton