Striking mine workers from the Elkview mine near Sparwood could be back at work next week after the union reached a tentative collective agreement with Teck Coal.
Teck and Local 9346 of the United Steelworkers of America reached an agreement on Monday and the members will vote on whether or not to accept it on Saturday.
Union president, Chris Nand, said he is unable to comment on whether or not the union supports the agreement.
“It is up to the membership to decide whether or not to accept it,” he said.
“Retiree benefits were a big issue for us. Teck agreed to give $1,500 annually to anyone who retires before December 31 2011, and this will increase after that date and every year after that until 2014. Before, Teck would only cover health benefits.
“They also have agreed to a wage increase for all members, which will keep increasing every year.”
The tentative agreement is for a five year term, expiring October 31, 2015.
Pending the successful ratification of the agreement by the union membership, full production at the mine is expected to resume by March 22.
“We are very pleased and anxious for the ratification to proceed and be successful and to get back to work soon,” said Nic Milligan of Teck Coal. “We think this is the best for all parties: the company, employees, shareholders and customers.”
More than 700 members of United Steelworkers Local 9346 walked out at the open pit mine at the end of January.
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 Oct. 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.