After a lot of angst and uncertainty, steelworkers at Regina’s EVRAZ steel and pipe mill can now breath a sigh of relief, as the United States lifted tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
The tariffs were brought in by the Donald Trump administration, which cited “national security” as one of its reasons. The fact the tariffs were still in place after the conclusion of a renegotiation of the NAFTA deal was seen as an impediment for Canada’s ratification of the new deal.
The lifting of the tariffs came on May 17, just before the Canadian Victoria Day long weekend.
Mike Day, president of United Steelworkers Local 5890 at EVRAZ Regina, said on May 21 it means job security, by being able to sell steel plate and pipe to the U.S.
“It opens up those doors again to those products in the United States. We’ve said before, China overflooded the market. It became an issue, and the United States took their stance, and somehow thought Canada was a problem, a national security threat, even though we’re allies.”
Day hopes there will be more orders for their 24-inch and smaller mill, with pipe for drilling and pipelines. “Hopefully this gets the sales team’s phones ringing and gets that mill back up to full capacity. It’s been down to two crews for the last while down, due to no U.S. orders.
“We haven’t had any employment loss or layoffs yet, but I don’t know how long we could have sustained that.”
Day said EVRAZ had been moving staff around, between different mills in the facility, to keep them working, but didn’t think that could go on indefinitely.
He noted that there has been hiring, but he wasn’t sure if it was for summer relief or something else.
The union local has about 1,100 members, all working at EVRAZ Regina.
Day said, “Finally some good news has come out of this,” pointing to the continual attacks on oil and gas and pipelines.
The company has mostly been working on orders destined for north of the border. The Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline is pretty much done, he noted, and the natural gas pipeline for the LNG Canada project is going to be big.
Premier Scott Moe issued a statement on May 17 saying, ““Canada’s steel is among the most sustainably produced in the world, and we in Saskatchewan are proud that our steel products are an integral part of so many industries across North America. The removal of tariffs from our steel and aluminum products is a good step in strengthening jobs and economic growth, and removes barriers to Canada’s relationship with our most significant trading partner.”