Striking workers from Elkview mine are voting on whether or not to accept a tentative agreement recommended to them by their union.
The more than 700 members of United Steelworkers Local 9346 could be back to work tomorrow (Friday) if they vote to accept the agreement, which was presented to them on Monday.
“Both parties are recommending the members accept this agreement, which addresses the two key issues of wages and RRSPs,” said the union’s local president, Chris Nand. “Our members did not want to be forced into locking all their money into a retirement plan. We had membership meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday and now we have opened the ballot box for members to vote.
“It has taken a long time and has been tough, because it has affected 700 families and resulted in 10 weeks at the picket line. But if the members vote to accept this agreement they will be back to work tomorrow.”
The agreement follows an earlier deal that was voted down by the members.
Marcia Smith, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Teck, said the company is looking forward to the results of the vote which should be released today (Thursday).
“We are pleased that we reached a memorandum of settlement but we are in a position where we are waiting for the vote,” she said. “It is up to the membership so we are looking forward to the results of the vote.”
The workers walked out at the open pit mine in January.
Teck cut its 2011 guidance for coal production last month by about one million tonnes due to a tough winter and the Elkview labour dispute.
The company said it expected coal sales in 2011 to be between 23.5 tonnes and 24.5 million tonnes, compared to previously announced guidance of 24.5 to 25.5 million tonnes.
The reduction followed an announcement earlier this month that the company would sell between 4.6 million and 4.9 million tonnes of coal compared with an average of 5.3 million tonnes in recent years.
The company said at that time that the strike had not been a significant reason for the lower sales as deliveries of Elkview coal from inventory continued.
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, 2010 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.