Evraz issues layoff notices to 50 Regina steelworkers, hundreds more expected in January

·3 min read

Fifty Evraz steelworkers in Regina received layoff notices on Friday and hundreds more could be laid off by mid-January.

"It's been a trying year for us and our members here in Regina," said Mike Day, president of United Steelworkers Local 5890, which is the union associated with the Regina steel plant.

"COVID started in March. I think it was around that same time we had a cyberattack on the company. And then we had this," Day said. "It's just seems like it's one thing after another in 2020, like many other places."

The New Year will not fare much better for many more workers. By mid-January, Evraz says the jobs of up to 500 employees will also be deemed redundant.

Day said USW Local 5890 is used to seeing 30 or 40 people being laid off.

"But when you're starting to get the guys that have worked here now for 20 years, it's been a long time since the layoff notices have come out and their names have been on it. It's tough."

Evraz said the restructuring is necessary to help deal with the struggling state of the steel industry.

Day said the pandemic is largely to blame, along with the prolonged slump in the energy sector and what he calls government inaction in promoting Canadian steel for projects across the country, including pipelines.

"We're directly related to the oil and gas sector. Our No. 1 product is this pipe. So when there's no contracts because there's no product or there's no projects going on, it's hard for us right now."

Kirk Fraser/CBC
Kirk Fraser/CBC

Day said the union was confident the company was going to get a contract for a northern Alberta project, but he said a foreign company is going to get the work.

"When we've got projects that are being built in Canada and they're not using Canadian project, Canadian labour and Canadian material … it's very concerning to the steel industry," Day said.

The layoffs will mostly affect the tubular division of the plant, which makes pipelines for the oil and gas industry.

"To put it in perspective, at this time last year we were almost at 700 members in tubular, and by the middle of January, I expect this to be just shy of 100 [workers] unless something comes up," Day said.

He doesn't see a turnaround in the near future and doubts all the jobs will come back.

"I don't see our numbers ever climbing to that where it was a year ago."

Olivia Stefanovich/CBC
Olivia Stefanovich/CBC

And with a struggling economy, it will be hard for laid-off workers to find jobs.

"Not a lot of places are hiring and especially hiring that are … comparable wages and benefits to what the guys get here. So it's going to be a real financial struggle for a lot of places in the city."

Day said the union is hoping to reach out to Don Morgan, the province's minister of labour relations.

He also hopes having U.S. president-elect Joe Biden coming to the White House will mean better trade relations and more opportunities for the Canadian steel industry.