‘No change’ in negotiations

The president of the union that’s members are on strike from Elkview mine, says there is “no change” in developments and an agreement is no closer to being reached with Teck Coal.

  • Feb. 28, 2011 1:00 p.m.

The president of the union that’s members are on strike from Elkview mine, says there is “no change” in developments and an agreement is no closer to being reached with Teck Coal.The more than 700 members of United Steelworkers Local 9346 walked out at the open pit mine on January 30 and set up five picket lines.The union’s local president, Chris Nand, said the workers are on strike over a new labour contract.“Nothing has changed,” he said. “We met with Teck on Thursday last week and gave them a counter offer to their proposal of January 30. But they did not accept it and the meeting was over fairly quickly.”“We are hopeful that they will call us and arrange to meet with us to discuss the situation but for now we are waiting.”Nic Milligan of Teck Coal told The Free Press there had been an orderly shutdown at the mine near Sparwood on Sunday, January 30, and there has been no production since then.He said that the meeting on Thursday had not lasted long but Teck are still willing to communicate with the union.“We met with the union on Thursday last week and their proposal had not differed materially from previous discussions.“We were open to continuing the dialogue but the union left after about an hour and half.“We are still hopeful to work with the union to reach an agreement.”Union members have been without a contract since October 31, and voted 98.2 per cent in favour of striking a month ago.Among outstanding issues are the employer’s contribution levels to the workers’ retirement savings plan (RSP) and retiree benefits.The union’s local president, Chris Nand, said he and members of the union’s bargaining committee had met with Teck on January 30 and the company had presented them a package that they were not happy with. 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.