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Elkview miners take strike action

Members of United Steelworkers Local 9346 at the picket lines in front of one of the gates at Elkview mine on Monday. - Photo by M.Cole
Members of United Steelworkers Local 9346 at the picket lines in front of one of the gates at Elkview mine on Monday.
— image credit: Photo by M.Cole

Union workers at the Elkview mine near Sparwood are on strike over a new labour contract.

The more than 700 members of United Steelworkers Local 9346 walked out Sunday at the open pit mine.

Union members have been without a contract since October 31, and voted 98.2 per cent in favour of striking last week.

Among outstanding issues are the employer’s contribution levels to the workers’ retirement savings plan (RSP) and retiree benefits.

Talks between the company and workers at the mine broke down last week and a 72-hour strike notice was issued on Thursday.

The union’s local president, Chris Nand, said he and members of the union’s bargaining committee had met with Teck on Sunday and the company had presented them a package that they were not happy with.

“The bargaining committee was not happy with the package and refused to recommend it to members,” he said.

“It did not address the key issue which is the employer’s contributions to RSPs.

“We are just too far apart on certain issues, and the company has not been willing to move on them.”

The local represents an assortment of workers including heavy equipment operators, trades, maintenance workers and labourers.

Nic Milligan of Teck Coal told The Free Press there had been an orderly shutdown at the mine on Sunday and production has ceased for the time being. He said there are no planned meetings with the union at the moment, but he hopes to negotiate a resolution soon.

“We are still hopeful that we can reach a resolve with the union that is fair to both our hourly employees and the company,” he said.

Nand said the key sticking points for the union are an increase in employer contributions to its employee registered pension plan and the extension of medical benefits to retirees.

The Elkview mine, located three kilometres east of Sparwood, has a workforce of 850. 692 of those are unionized employees, according to Teck. The workers have been without a contract since October 31, when the last deal expired.

The Elkview facility has the capacity to mine 5.6 million tonnes of coal per year, second to the Fording River mine, with a capacity of eight million tonnes per year.

The labour contract at Fording River expires April 30.

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