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Algoma Steel’s offer of $6,000 signing bonuses to members of Steelworkers Local 2251 is a barometer of a lousy deal, says local president Mike Da Prat.

“A good deal, there is no signing bonus,” Da Prat told SooToday on Saturday afternoon.

“A bad deal has a signing bonus. The level of the signing bonus tells you how bad the deal is.”

“It’s meant to attract the short view rather than the long view,” said the man who represents 2,000 hourly workers, the steel mill’s largest collective bargaining group.

“That’s what the problem is. We’re not about to dignify the offer by bringing it back to the members.”

Da Prat was responding to a news release issued by Algoma Steel on Friday night, claiming it had offered a 15.2 per cent raise over four years, but union negotiators were refusing to take it to their membership for a vote.

“The message from the company is just designed to confuse the members. The real raise is 5.5 per cent.”

Of the increase cited by the company, 4.1 per cent is actually rolled in from the last collective agreement, Da Prat says.

“They’re including it simply to make the offer more attractive.”

“Under Section 42 of the Ontario Labour Relations Act, the company has a legitimate method to put an offer before the members and to request a ministry-supervised vote.”

“We told them to do that if that’s what they wanted.”

“They chose instead to do it this way, which is to try to get our members to pressure us to hold the vote.”

The union countered on Friday with an offer for a total of seven per cent in increases as part of a five-year collective agreement.

“The fight for us right now, regarding the cost-of-living adjustment [COLA] is for the young workers going forward.”

“They are the ones who are going to be detrimentally affected when the COLA becomes part of the wage structure.”

COLA, Da Prat says, was always intended to protect the purchasing power of the workers, allowing both parties to settle on lower wage increases.

“We didn’t have to negotiate higher wage increases to protect us in the event of inflation.”

“What they’ve done to it is, they’ve sucked it in and created it as a component of the wages, which it never was intended to be.”

“Everyone used to ask me about [previous owner] Essar Global. Even Essar Global did not do this with the COLA.”

“Neither did anybody else. Throughout all the [insolvency proceedings], COLA wasn’t addressed this way. COLA was left alone for what it was.”

Local 2251’s collective agreement expired July 31.

The company announced plans to start idling the mill over the Civic Holiday weekend, but both sides agreed on Saturday, July 30, to extend their expired contract for 15 days to allow further discussions.

Da Prat says the new deadline for reaching a deal is 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 15.

“We indicated we’re willing to continue talking. It’s up to the company now to initiate whatever they want to do.”