Monday, August 16, 2010

The Truth About National Steel Car Ltd.

National Steel Car Ltd. was to be the savior of the economy in Northwest Alabama. The Hamilton, Ontario, company promised a minimum of 1,500 jobs paying at least $16.00 an hour. Interestingly, the unionized Hamilton plant pays its workers the US equivalent of $26.00 an hour. Now the new plant, dubbed National Alabama, has seemingly returned to the genie's bottle from which it sprang--the same one holding the convoluted financial machinations of NSC's Greg Aziz.

According to Canadian sources, Aziz is not only president and chief executive officer of NSC, he owns 100% of the rail car manufacturing facility. Aziz is said to own only 10% of its Alabama counterpart. In 2007, Aziz announced the Hamilton plant was landlocked, a statement many in the Ontario manufacturing hub questioned. Aziz further declared that by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the manufacturing concern, the Hamilton plant would no longer be able to keep up with orders for new rail cars and hoppers.

Greg Aziz was looking for land at a cheap price and his quest soon brought him to the Shoals; obviously we were only too glad to be the recipient of his attentions. Just how closely did the powers that be look at Aziz's National Steel Car Ltd.? Seemingly most local and state industrial recruiters were viewing Aziz and his grandiose plans through a gauze covered lens.

As early as 2006, the Hamilton plant had begun laying off workers due to a slow down in orders. By 2009, NSC had sent 1,700 workers packing, leaving only 660 fully employed. NSC soon asked that those remaining take a 25% pay cut, and a strike ensued. Hamilton workers are members of the Teamsters Rail Union, while the prospective workers at Barton are not unionized--a fact that was not lost on Aziz.

While Greg Aziz told Shoals industrial leaders that the Barton plant would begin full operations as soon as the economy rallied, he failed to mention that at least one of NSC's chief competitors had already relocated to Mexico, siphoning away many of NSC's customers with a lower bottom line.

On July 19th, the TimesDaily reported that National Alabama had a total work force of 120 and had not yet received its first order for rail cars. On August 15th, the same newspaper offhandedly threw out the line:

When asked about the future of the railcar facility, Wright would only comment, “We're talking with companies that could operate in that facility.”

It may sound trite, but we have to ask: Just what do Forrest Wright and SEDA know and how long have they known it?



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