Workers of the Canadian steel plant in the city of Regina were too tough for the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. On their side in the conflict with the corporation "Evraz" were trade unions, green and global oil interests.
Money is not money
The social conflict at the steel plant in Regina was exactly one year ago. In July 2016 the term of the collective labor agreement was over, and in May the negotiations of the trade union about a new agreement began. According to the chief negotiator representing the interests of steelmakers, the two sides practically agreed on "non-monetary aspects", but rested on the wall when the question came about the most important - the monetary side of the matter. The Evraz proposal is a five-year contract, without raising wages for the first three years, and increasing the next two by half a percentage point during the fourth and fifth year of the contract. This proposal does not suit the steelworkers. But even more they do not like the refusal of Evraz to regularly raise pensions. Under the terms of the old agreement, pensioners and wives of deceased workers received about a thousand dollars of additional payments annually.
"Our pensioners are usually people who have worked for 25 to 30 years for IPSCO. And now, in its place, we see a new company owned by Russia, and run by some guys from Chicago, and they are attacking the interests of our people, our pensioners, "the local newspaper is encouraged by the forthcoming strike of the trade union activist.
Sword of Damocles
In conditions when the enterprise is under the control of the trade union, whose representatives negotiate on behalf of workers with managers and owners of the company, refusal to conclude an agreement inevitably leads to a strike. Trade union leaders have already prepared for this step. They voted and secured almost one hundred percent support (99.3% of the number of voters) workers. This, of course, does not mean the automatic withdrawal of workers from the enterprise. Modern North American trade unions are a powerful organization aimed at conducting tough negotiations and knocking out benefits in their favor. The ability to stop work at any moment is a sword of Damocles, which the negotiators hang over the owners. And these are not empty threats, otherwise such a strategy will be one-off. In other words, the strike is real. And in this case, "Evraz" may face another, much more serious problem.
The fact is that recently the steel plant in Regina received a contract for the manufacture of a pipe with a total capacity of 250 thousand metric tons. The order came from the Texas-based Kinder Morgan corporation, which expects to cover 75% of its needs by implementing the project to expand the oil pipeline from the oil field in Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. The project is called the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, and it involves increasing the capacity of the existing pipe by four times. The application for the pipe was submitted to the Canadian authorities in 2013, and permission was received recently. The second branch of the pipeline will run parallel to the existing one, but it will radically change the economy and geopolitics of oil production in North America.
For the benefit of steelmakers
Thus, there is nothing surprising in the fact that several influential public organizations and even the Green Party of the United States actively opposed such an expansion. The march of the protesters against the project has just ended - within three days the participants marched 75 kilometers and held a protest rally in which not only public activists but also local authorities and even mayors of small towns on whose territories the pipe passed took part.
All this "moving" occurs at a time when the stock market participants are waiting for the IPO of the Canadian division of Kinder Morgan - a public sale of shares to investors worth $ 7.4 billion. Thus, Texas pipeline companies intend to finance their project, the sale is scheduled for May 31. All these circumstances are in favor of steelworkers from Regina and significantly narrow the room for maneuvering the "Chicago guys" of Roman Abramovich. Most likely he will have to give a go-ahead for consent. And share a part of the profits from the contract on the pipe.