Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair told a room full of retired steelworkers in Hamilton on Thursday that the federal government has been “missing in action” in the ongoing restructuring of Stelco and should be sticking up for the rights of workers and pensioners.

Mulcair spoke at a rally at the United Steelworkers 1005 hall on Kenilworth Avenue Thursday as negotiations continue between the U.S. Steel and Bedrock Industries to come up with a deal to take the steelmaker out of Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) protection.

Since the Liberals took over the federal government, Mulcair told the crowd, “precisely nothing has come forward that is of any use to you or your family in terms of preserving your pensions and preserving the benefits you paid for.”

Retirees who are awaiting the outcome of the CCAA proceedings have had their pension benefits cut since October 2015 to save the company money. And the pensioners fear benefits and even pension payments will be jeopardized in the final deal.

As well, Mulcair said, the government is oblivious to ongoing problems with bankruptcy protection legislation that focus too much on the interests of creditors rather than workers and retirees.

“The solution going forward is to … make sure we give priority to the protection of workers, pensions and benefits in the case of the reorganization of a company under CCAA or any other form of bankruptcy or insolvency,” he said.

“Workers have to be put first. That has to become the law.”

The visit to Hamilton followed a trip to Ottawa before Christmas by union representatives to raise awareness of the union’s concerns with federal officials. On that day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons in Question Period that “We are engaged. We are aware of this challenge and it’s one that we are working with them on.”

On Thursday, The Spectator contacted the office of Navdeep Singh Bains, the minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, about the NDP and union concerns.

A statement from the office suggested the government did not share the NDP view that insolvency laws need to be rewritten.

“The government understands the importance of secure pensions. We hope workers and pensioners are treated fairly. Insolvency laws aim to strike the right balance between debtors and creditors. That is why we continue to examine marketplace framework laws — (to) ensure they’re properly updated and effective.

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