After serving strike notice on Jan. 11, several days of mediated talks, and three days of voting on non-binding recommendations, the more than 1,000 unionized workers at Highland Valley Copper Mine west of Logan Lake have voted in favour of a new five-year contract with Teck Resources Ltd., which owns and operates the mine.
United Steelworkers Local 7619 says that 706 of the 869 employees (81.2 per cent) who voted supported the new contract. There are 1,048 members in the local, and voting took place last week at the Logan Lake Recreation centre.
The workers had been without a contract since Sept. 30, 2021, and had been in a position to strike since Jan. 16. Mediators Vince Ready and Corinn Bell had been brought in to try to resolve the situation, and they proposed a lump sum payment of $20,000 to all active union members, including those on leave and those who retired between Oct. 1, 2021 and the date of ratification. They also proposed wage increases of two per cent per year over the life of the five-year contract, retroactive to Oct. 1, 2021.
“We note that this was a particularly difficult round of bargaining and that the Union bargaining committee negotiated to impasse on a number of very difficult issues,” Ready and Bell wrote in their recommendations. “We have made the decision to issue the [recommendations] as representative of a compromise to all issues in the dispute [and] we recommend that the parties seriously consider these recommendations to avoid a lengthy labour dispute.”
“Thank you all for taking part in the democratic process in deciding all of our futures,” the Steelworkers Union bargaining committee said in a statement. “No matter what, we are in this together. Just like any vote, what ever the group consensus lands is where we all go.
“The majority has spoken, time to move on. Be proud of the significant language which will improve the lives of workers at HVC. There are great improvements that will help employees on a wide variety of issues over the next five years.”
The statement also noted that things should get “back to normal” at the mine over the next few weeks, and that back pay should come over the next few paycheques. Anyone with specific questions can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highland Valley Copper is the largest open-pit copper and molybdenum mine in Canada, and was created in 1986 when existing mining operations in Highland Valley were combined. The mine is currently scheduled to cease production in 2028, but Teck Resources has announced that they are hoping to extend the life of the mine to 2040.