Slater Steels Incorporated

Headquarters: 1961-1985, King Street West; 1985-1986, Standard Life Building, Hamilton, Ontario
Burlington Steel/Hamilton Specialty Bar: Sherman Avenue North, Hamilton, Ontario
N. Slater/Slater Products Division/Slacan: 1961-1986, King Street West, Hamilton, Ontario

A 1918 advertisement for Slater and Barnard Limited (click for a closer look)

The history of Slater Steels Incorporated began almost 60 years before its actual incorporation. In 1906, Norman Slater purchased the Allith Manufacturing Company, and a year later a man by the name of T.H. Barnard started a foundry operation in the west end of Hamilton, Ontario. In 1910, a group of Hamilton businessmen founded the Canada Steel Company - later to be known as Burlington Steel Limited - on Sherman Avenue North. Barnard and Slater joined forces in 1912, and in 1917 established Slater and Barnard Limited (S.B.L.) in Barnard's factory on King Street West, which was an amalgamation of Allith, Acme Stamping and Tool Works, and Safety Door Hanger Company. During World War I, S.B.L. manufactured shell casings and aircraft parts, among other things, for the war effort.

A 1938 ad for N. Slater Company Limited (click for a closer look)

In 1920, Barnard sold his interest in S.B.L. to Slater, and the company was renamed the N. Slater Company Limited (N.S.). The company manufactured hardware for electric power transmission and communications, as well as washing machine parts and garden tools.

Forty years later, Samuel Fingold of Toronto, Ontario, purchased N.S., and later Burlington Steel Limited. The two companies were merged to become Slater Steel Industries Limited (S.S.I.), but each retained its name as an operating division. Burlington Steel Division (B.S.D.) produced steel bars from scrap, and N. Slater Division (N.S.D.) used the steel to manufacture pole line hardware for power industries. A third division, the Enamel and Plumbing Division, manufactured enamel coating for bathroom and kitchen fixtures (this division would be sold in 1969).

Expansion and modernization of the B.S.D. plant on Sherman Avenue North began in February of 1964. Two and a half million dollars were spent on, among other things, a new warehouse and a new 20-ton furnace which increased production of ingot steel by 250%. At this point, S.S.I. employed about 1,200 people, one thousand of whom worked in the two Hamilton divisions. Two years later, a third furnace was added to B.S.D., as well as two continuous casting lines.

Sam Fingold sold his 50.2% interest in S.S.I. to Stanton Pipes Limited of Hamilton, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Steel Corporation of the United Kingdom. A year later, S.S.I. acquired a 25% share in the Interprovincial Steel and Pipe Corporation (Ipsco) of Regina, Saskatchewan. The investment was simply for financial purposes; no changes at all were made to Ipsco's organization. In late 1972, S.S.I. spent $6 million more modernizing its B.S.D. facilities, increasing the plant's capacity by a further 50%.

The head office of Slater Steel on King Street West (click for a closer look)

In 1973, the name of the N. Slater Division was changed to Slater Products Division (S.P.D.). The health of the general economy was reflected in the annual report of Slater Steel Industries: the company posted $42 million in sales and $5 million in net earnings, the highest in its 12-year history. Net earnings increased again in 1974, but plateaued over the next three years. By 1979, however, the company's sales and earnings increased further in 1979, and continued to rise. In June, 1980, the Slater Products Division became known as Slacan.

S.S.I. expanded to the United States when it purchased the stainless steel operations of the Joslyn Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1981. This new acquisition manufactured stainless steel and alloy bars and billets. The next year, S.S.I. bought the Crucible Steel Division of Colt Canada Incorporated, in Sorel, Quebec, (a specialty steel manufacturer) and renamed it the Crucan Division (C.D.).

The worldwide economic recession contributed to a massive drop in S.S.I.'s profits in 1983; net earnings fell 70% to $3.5 million. The first three months of 1984 were worse still: profits dropped 98.8% from the same time period of the previous year (from $1.7 million in 1983 to $21,000 in 1984). Almost 20% of the employees at the two Hamilton plants were laid off.

S.S.I. sold its Ipsco holdings in 1984, and in the same year changed its name, as well as the names of three of the four operating divisions:

Slater Steel Industries Limited became Slater Steels Corporation (S.S.C.)
Burlington Steel Division became Hamilton Specialty Bar Division (H.S.B.)
Joslyn Stainless Steel became Fort Wayne Specialty Alloys Division (F.W.S.A.)
Crucan became Sorel Forge Division (S.F.)

Slacan retained its name, but not its location: in 1984 the plant and property on King and Dundurn Streets was sold, and the company began searching for a suitable location within a 20-mile radius of Hamilton. The next year, S.S.C.'s headquarters were moved into the Standard Life Building in downtown Hamilton. While Stoney Creek, Ontario, was seriously considered for the location of the new Slacan factory, the company opted to move it to Brantford, Ontario, in March of 1986. The same year, the name of the company was changed yet again, this time to Slater Industries Incorporated (S.I.I.), and the Fingolds bought control of the company back from British Steel, moving the headquarters to Toronto. S.I.I. bought Renown Steel of Scarborough, Ontario, a steel service centre, at the end of July, 1986.

The head of the union speaks to wildcat strikers in June, 1989 (click for a closer look)

On June 28, 1989, two hundred workers at H.S.B. conducted a wildcat (illegal) strike against the company's new shift schedule. The workers did not want to work afternoons and evenings during the week, with no weekends off. The walkout lasted three days, until the company offered them a five-day holiday every three weeks.

The Fingolds gave up majority control of S.I.I.; by 1994 the company's shares were distributed widely. On June 25, 1996, the name of the company was changed once more to Slater Steels Incorporated (S.S.I.) That year, the Hamilton Specialty Bar Division became the first specialty bar producer ever to win QS-9000 standing, a quality standard set by the automotive industry. In September, 1997, Slacan in Brantford was sold to Tridem Manufactured Products Incorporated, leaving S.S.I. with two subsidiaries in F.W.S.A. (Fort Wayne) and S.F. (Sorel), and two divisional operations in H.S.B. (Hamilton) and Renown Steel (Scarborough). The sale of Slacan contributed to the company's net loss of $7.5 million during the fiscal year 1998.

On April 9, 1997, four hundred and twenty workers - represented by the United Steelworkers of America, Local 4752 - engaged in a legal strike to protest the company's offer of a six-year term for the new contract. A week later the strikers were back at work when the management offered a four-year contract, wage increase of 25 cents per hour, a profit-sharing programme, and a cost-of-living adjustment.

S.S.I. agreed to merge with a company known as Co-Steel Incorporated in June, 1999, but the merger was called off when the latter company failed to attract the minimum number of the former's shareholders. Currently (August, 2000) the company has put itself back in the black, with profits of $8.8 million in 1999. According to its website,

Slater Steel will take advantage of its financial flexibility to actively explore strategic acquisitions that will enable the Corporation to further maximize its assets and develop new growth opportunities.



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