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The worst case scenario, says DaPrat, is management expecting above and beyond from its dwindling workforce to compensate for fewer employees.

"A significant chunk of our membership, more than 10%, felt it was the right time to go," said Ian Kersley, president of United Steelworkers Local 2724, who says 61 members agreed to enter the program.

The 2724 president believes the company's intent will be to not hire replacements for outgoing staff, but "will eventually find it (replacements) necessary in some areas because of the added burden."

Participants, who will be phased out between Jan. 1 and July 31, will have their pension supplemented by bridge financing until the Canada Pension Plan kicks in at age 65.

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Workers have a 10 month window to retire each year, January through October, says DaPrat, provided they have 30 years service, but without a cash incentive.

Nearly three years ago, in the spring of 2009, 143 employees voluntarily accepted early retirement with a $20,000 incentive, $10,000 upon retirement and another $10,000 on the first anniversary of retirement.

Recent early retirement programs that exceeded 300 participants accommodated steel plant restructuring in 1992 and 2002.

The transition program, which some perceived as "double dipping," wrapped up after about one year.

Stenta believes current staffing at the steelworks is in the 2,800 employee range, while DaPrat says the last manning number he had, from about six weeks ago on Jan. 11, was nearly 3,100 union and non union.

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"It's a personal decision on whether you Adidas D Rose 4 Shop are ready for retirement . This was an opportunity for people to leave with some extra cash in their pocket," said Kersley.

Nobody appears to know the manning number that Essar Algoma is targeting.

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The window of opportunity for participation closed more than two months ago, on Dec. 5, and 304 employees, union and non union alike, signed on for the program offering a $25,000 cash incentive, say union officials, upon retirement.

repeatedly asked where they ultimately want to go with manning but they keep telling us nothing has been finalized," said DaPrat.

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304 take early retirement package from Essar

DaPrat, who leads more than 2,400 hourly maintenance, production, service and clerical employees, believes retirement will create "an acute (staffing) shortage . the union will need to convince management to hire additional people."

"I can think of at least a couple other times from the recent past where more people agreed to retire (at the same time), but 300 retirements from of an already undersized workforce is still significant," said Mike DaPrat, president of USW Local 2251, who had more than 200 members take the payout.

About 300 Essar Steel Algoma employees have voluntarily agreed to participate in the Sault Ste. Marie steelmaker's early retirement incentive program.

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It's no secret management wants to downsize its manpower requirements, say union officials, and the early retirement is a tool to accommodate such a shedding of jobs, while protecting junior employees, as the company streamlines.

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Earlier, in 1992, more than 500 accepted early retirement, with bridge financing, until they were eligible for CPP.

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and efficiencies initiatives currently underway across the steelworks," wrote Brenda Stenta, Essar Algoma corporate spokesperson, in an e mail.

The 2002 program had nearly 600 sign on for the retiree transition program in which participants would retire then be rehired for up to three years at 80% of the collective wage agreement plus their monthly pension.

Those entering the program needed to meet specific age and service requirements, in the case of 60 and under 2251 members, the 85 factor, age plus years of service equalling 85, to be eligible for an unreduced pension.

"The incentive is offered to facilitate the accommodation of employees who may be displaced due to Adidas Boost Close Up

Kersley, who has led more than 500 salaried supervisory and technical personnel for more than 15 years, since 1995, is among the 2724 members taking advantage of the incentive.

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