Local 551 President urges trade tribunal to renew trade duties to Korean imported line pipe

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A group of people stand in front of a Canada Revenue Agency sign on the street.

The president of Unifor Local 551 is warning that importing Korean line-pipe products will have a detrimental effect on Canadian jobs.

Amanda Servais testified on July 4 at the Canadian International Trade Tribunal during a hearing about Korean line-pipe imports to Canada, which is in competition with products that are built by Unifor members at Evraz in Camrose, Alta.

“Without adequate protections, the workers at Evraz Camrose will face layoffs, bargaining concessions, and potentially even the closure of the plant,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.

“To these members, especially those members on layoff, the threat of injury that these imports represent is no longer a risk – it is already having an impact on their lives, the lives of their families, and their community.”

Unifor is an active participant in this trade dispute and the union is hoping the tribunal decides to reattach soon-expiring trade duties to unfairly imported line pipe from Korea.

Steel products, including the line pipe produced at Camrose, are supplied from all over the world. In countries like China and Korea, steelmakers intentionally over-produce these goods because it’s cheap to do so and it allows them to export excess product all over the world at discount rates.     

Servais told the tribunal she began her 18-year career at Evraz Camrose in Feb. 2005, working in almost every position at the mill, including lead hand, loader operator, and hydro tester.

At full capacity, Servais said, Evraz Camrose employs about 200 workers on the ERW mill.

But in May 2016, the mill faced massive layoffs. There were 165 workers who were laid off without an expected recall date and the cuts lasted until mid-December, when some – but not all – the workers were recalled. The cycle continued until late 2018.

“These lengthy layoffs were attributed by the company to fluctuations in the oil and gas sector alongside the presence of dumped Korean and Chinese pipe products,” explained Servais in her testimony.

Servais said it is essential that the domestic market be kept clear of dumped steel pipes to ensure that the members at Evraz Camrose are able to negotiate the wage increases that are necessary to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

The perceived lack of stability, caused in part by the presence of dumped goods, contributes to the reluctance of new workers to join the company, which has been a key employer in the relatively small community of Camrose with above average wages, pension and benefits.

“Every time, the effects are felt not just by the affected workers themselves but also by the company and the community more generally,” Servais told the tribunal.