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Cooperation in the Canadian Steel Industry

July 1, 1988

There are encouraging signs of cooperation between labour and management occurring in Canada's steel industry, a major manufacturing and exporting sector, and other sectors seem interested in following their example.

In the face of tough economic conditions a few years ago, the United Steelworkers of America and the chairman of Stelco Inc. decided that the time had come for labour and management to work together, and so the Canadian Steel Trade and Employment Congress was established. This Congress has formed a number of study groups to examine such questions as access to the U.S. market and the impact of technological change on labour. Among its tasks are lobbying government, monitoring shipments of steel to the U.S., and establishing a $20-million adjustment program for training, relocating and providing job counselling to workers in the industry. The Congress has also worked hard to show the U.S. government and the U.S. steel producers that Canada's steel industry is not, as the Americans have alleged, engaged in unfair competition. Exports to the U.S. are crucial to the health of the Canadian steel sector, especially in view of the proposed free trade agreement between Canada and the United States.

Other employer organizations and unions have .been watching the record of labour-management cooperation in the steel industry. The International Woodworkers of America and MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. are establishing a similar cooperative body in the forest industry. The electronics industry has also formed a union-management group to deal with labour relations issues and the impact of adopting new technology.