Monday, September 29, 2008

Strike at Xstrata looking likely

Xstrata Copper Canada says contract talks have broken down with the bargaining committee for CAW Local 599, the union that represents workers at the Xstrata Kidd Metallurgical Site in Timmins.
"We are very disappointed that the Union Executives have turned down the company's contract offer. We truly believe that we presented a fair, competitive and responsible offer and in fact we were able to agree on many of the demands tabled by the union," stated Thompson Hickey, General Manager of the Kidd Metallurgical site.
The company gave the union a deadline of 10:00 p.m. Monday Sept. 29 to accept a new three-year contract that includes the following:
-- Year 1: 3.5% salary increase
-- Year 2: 3.25%
-- Year 3: 1% plus COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment)
-- Signing bonus $2,000
If the bargaining committee chooses not to accept that offer, it changes by dropping the percentage increases in year-one and year-two, as follows, but it must be signed before 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday Sept. 30, the moment the current contract expires :
-- Year 1: 3% salary increase
-- Year 2: 3%
-- Year 3: 1% plus COLA
-- Signing bonus $2,000
The Canadian Auto Workers say the latest offer did make some movement toward union demands but not near enough to be considered a serious offer. It was late last week that some three-quarters of the union members voted 96 per cent in favour of taking strike action.
The unionized workers will be in a legal strike position at midnight on Tuesday. The company says it is "is finalizing contingency plans in the event the Union decides not to accept the offer."

Goldcorp reveals mining plans

Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines has revealed that it intends to create three new open pit mining operations at the old Hollinger Gold Mine property. Goldcorp PGM's strategic project manager Dave Bucar told Timmins city council this evening(in photo at left) that his company intends to create the new mining operation entirely within the existing property and fenceline of the known Hollinger property. Bucar says this will allay any fears in the community that may exist about the creation of a super-sized open pit that would take in parts of Schumacher, the McIntyre Arena and the Shania Twain Centre.
Bucar's revelations follow the news that was released by Goldcorp in 2007 that more than four-million ounces of gold have been identified through exploration drilling in and around the former Hollinger gold mine, one of the most lucrative gold mines in the history of Timmins.
"We are now moving into a permitting phase." said Bucar "We dont have any exact timing on construction or when the mine will begin." He says the timetable will be determined according to how quickly the various branches of government give the company permission to carry out mining operations.Bucar also revealed that in order to address concerns about dust, vibrations and noise that are part of an open pit mine, the company would be creating a rock wall, or a berm, twenty metres high along the entire perimeter of the project.

Goldcorp worried that ATVers destroying tailings

Goldcorp is trying to finish up the job in rejuvenating the old Delnite tailings. But there is a concern there are people in the community who are just as determined to ruin that work.
Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project but avid ATV riders may see its demise, according to PGM environmental engineer László Götz.
Much of the success of PGM’s rejuvenation effort is based on the plan of adding bio-solids to the tailings, thus creating a suitable base of nutrients where grasses, shrubs and trees can flourish. The company has also begun hydro-seeding the land in a high-priced effort to regreen the area.
The work has been applauded by many residents living in and around the old Delnite townsite, who complained for years about dust blowing off the top of the tailings. Controlling the dust is one of the reasons why PGM is working to rejuvenate the land.
The problem is that ATV riders and dirt-bikers are tearing up the reseeded areas by riding all over PGM’s private property.
PGM project assistant Bev Taylor says signs and barriers are being installed at all known access points to the various tailings areas, aimed at ATV and dirt-bike riders. “They don’t always pay attention,” she admits.
She says it’s not only to stop the riders from destroying new vegetation, but also for the protection of the trespassers so they don’t get in the way of the large machines.
“There’s heavy trucks everywhere out here,” she explains as one of the mammoth rock hauling machines roars along the back roads bringing another load of crushed rock that is used to stabilize the slopes of the tailings dams.
She adds that PGM is going to the expense to adding large boulders, weighing many thousands of kilograms, all along the perimeter at the top of the tailings. The idea is to keep trespassers from destroying the fragile re-vegetation area. PGM is hoping the boulders will discourage the ATV riders from trespassing.
The continued presence of the riders is frustrating for Götz, who has watched as his efforts get destroyed.
“Not only millions of dollars worth of repair work is at stake, but also the health of the nearby residents, who in the past endured dusting coming from the barred tailings surfaces, and who oh-so-loudly complained about it to the media last fall,” he said.
PGM is also in the process of cleaning up the old Aunor tailings located nearby and because of the trespassers at the Delnite, extra money, materials and manpower will be spent on those tailings as well, in an effort to keep ATVers away.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CAW calling for a strike vote at Xstrata Met Site

The bargaining committee for Local 599 of the Canadian Auto Workers, which represents the unionized employees at the Xstrata Kidd Met Site in Timmins is calling for a strike vote.
Ben Lefebvre, the chair of the bargaining committee, said in a news release late Wednesday afternoon that the latest company offer “falls short of our members’ expectations.”
Lefebvre says he is calling on the membership to hold meetings on Thursday to decide on a course of action.
“On Wednesday September 24th the Company presented your Bargaining Committee with an offer of settlement that falls short of our members’ expectations. The Committee had no choice but to reject the offer and will be asking members for a strong strike mandate to back your demands.
“As a result we have scheduled membership meetings for Thursday, September 25th at 3:00 and 7:30 PM at the McIntyre Community Center.
The current contract between Xstrata and Local 599 expires at midnight on September 30. If there is no contract by then, the union will be in a strike position on Wednesday October 1.
The relationship between the company and the union has been a rocky one in the past nine years. There have been three contracts and two strikes.
The current contract came into effect at the end of October 2005, when Local 599 went on strike for 29 days to back demands for their third contract.
The Met Site workers also went on strike for 26 days back in 1999 to back demands for their first ever contract.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Boot Drive on Saturday

Fill yer boots! Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus and communications director Dale Tonelli were among the first to make donations to the annual Muscular Dystrophy campaign, which firefighters across Canada have been promoting for decades. The donations were accepted by Timmins Professional Firefighter Association president Peter Osterberg. The firefighters will conduct a “boot drive” in several areas of the city on Saturday where residents can make a donation in support of medical research and Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Timmins Professional Firefighters and 600 other fire departments and associations across Canada have raised more than $61 million since the boot drive campaigns began in 1954. Firefighters will be on location at McDonald’s, Your Independent Grocers, A&P Superfresh, Wal Mart and Canadian Tire beginning at 9:00 a.m. Saturday to collect donations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Timmins police make arrests after gas bar robbery

Timmins Police Service says several arrests have been made as the result of an armed robbery that occurred at the Canadian Tire Gas Bar early Tuesday morning.
At approximately 6:19 a.m. a lone male suspect entered the gas bar brandishing a knife. The suspect punched an innocent customer and then reached over the counter removing an undisclosed amount of cash from the till, says a police news release.
Police say the suspect was seen running away northbound through the parking lot. The customer who was punched was able to identify a suspect for police, who then proceeded to a home on Fifth Avenue.
Within minutes, police knocked on the door of a Fifth Avenue home. The residents inside refused to come out, so police waited at the door until a search warrant was processed. Eventually four suspects came out of the house and were arrested by police. Police say the suspect involved in the robbery and weapons offence is being held in custody pending a bail hearing.
In the meantime, police have launched a thorough search of the Fifth Avenue home to gather more evidence.
Police say no names are being released until their investigation is completed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Timmins car fire - dramatic photos

Heavy black smoke billowed over the southern side of Timmins this afternoon, just before four oclock, when a van caught fire on Cody Avenue at Mountjoy Street. Firefighters arrived on the scene in minutes to find the vehicle enveloped in flames. It only took a few more minutes to knock down the fire. Firefighters left the scene just before 4:30 p.m. There were no reports of any injuries. The incident is under investigation.

Thanks to Timmins Firefighters

Northern College said Thank You in a special way recently when it presented a handcrafted and framed copy of the Fireman’s Prayer to the Timmins Professional Firefighters Association. Local president Peter Osterberg, left, accepted the framed prayer from Judy Rantala, who runs Northern College’s School of Health Science and Emergency Services, which includes the pre-firefighter program. Rantala explained that the gesture of thanks was directed to the professional firefighters in Timmins who have gone above and beyond in working with the college and contributing to the success of the firefighter’s training program and, said Rantala, “do an excellent job of mentoring” with the students. The current class of students attended the firehall and hosted a barbecue lunch for the firefighters.

Timmins Terry Fox Run

Timmins Runner Joel Picard was the first to finish the 6K road running event in the city’s annual Terry Fox Fun this year. Picard crossed the finish line with a time of 24:45.50. He was one of scores of running enthusiasts who ran the course despite the cooler temperatures and brisk winds on Sunday afternoon. The Terry Fox Run in Timmins this year had nearly one hundred participants who walked and ran the course, from Gillies Lake through the north end of the city and back.

Timmins traffic tied up

Timmins Police Constable Chris Litt had to direct traffic early Monday afternoon when a logging truck knocked down the traffic light post at Burnette Road and Algonquin Boulevard. Traffic was backed up for nearly an hour as workers cleared the debris and then worked the get all the traffic signals working again. The incident is under police investigation.

Timmins students challenged for African missions

Father Marco Bagnarol is challenging Catholic students in Timmins and throughout the Northeast district to help him raise money for missions in Mozambique, in south eastern Africa. Bagnarol, originally from Toronto, is now with the Consolata Missionaries who have been working in Mozambique since 1925 to children build better lives for themselves. The challenge is to all students of the Northeastern Catholic District School Board (NCDRB) students and teachers to take action to help raise $30,000 this year. The board says the call to assist others in need fits in with the current theme of Catholic education which reminds students “You are the Light of the World” and gives students the opportunity to experience and appreciate the value of helping others.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Goldcorp "suspending operations" at Pamour

Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines announced today it is suspending operations indefinitely at the Pamour Open Pit mining operation, because of the dropping price of gold and rising price of fuel and other supplies needed to run the mine. The company says the work suspension will come in early 2009, once the current mining stage is completed.
The Pamour Open Pit was brought online two years ago, after Goldcorp spent hundreds of millions of dollars to move the move part of Three Nations Lake to access part of the historic Pamour orebody that was below the lake and under the old section of Highway 101.
In a news release, the company said “Porcupine Gold Mines operating margins have been eroded by significant commodity inflation at its open pit operation due in part to the large volumes of fuel, steel and tires it consumes. Gold prices have dropped more than 30 per cent since earlier highs, cash costs in the open pit have almost doubled in less than two years and planned ore grades have not been achieved.”
The company has not indicated anything about layoffs, but the news release indicates that Goldcorp will try to relocate the Pamour workers into other Goldcorp operations in Timmins, which includes the Hoyle Pond Mine, the Dome Mine and the Hollinger project. The company says existing ore stockpiles will continue to be sent to the Porcupine mill, also known as the Dome mill.
“There are roughly 160 employees working in conjunction with the open pit, maintenance, engineering and geology; over 80 of whom will be retained for mill maintenance and to mine ore from stockpiles. At this time we anticipate that existing openings at the Porcupine and other Goldcorp operations will allow re-deployment of an additional 30 people,” the news release stated.
“As Pamour mining activities slow down in the first half of 2009 we will continue to look for positions to re-deploy the remainder of the workforce for whom we currently do not have opportunities,” the company news release continued.
“The Porcupine mill will continue at full production by replacing Pamour open pit ore with significant ore stockpiles that have been generated over the past 14 years of open pit mining. Following the completion of mining operations the workforce will be reduced to a size commensurate with re-handling stockpiles,” the company said.
“We wanted to ensure our employees had as much notice as possible and we will take the transition time we have to look for new opportunities to retain our people. Porcupine’s other operations and projects require people and we need to focus our efforts on those operations to ensure they continue to be competitive under any market conditions.” The release was signed by Chris Cormier, Mine General Manager Porcupine Gold Mines.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pépère Gilles!

Gilles Bisson has become a pépère. The Timmins-James Bay MPP announced at the Porcupine Fall Fair Friday that his daughter Julie and her husband Chris Gardner are the proud parents of a baby boy, young Nathaniel Gilles, who was born on Wednesday. Bisson told the fair audience that he, and his wife Murielle, were both pleased and trying to outdo the other in seeing who could hold the baby the most.

Porcupine Fall Fair Fun!

Nice Donkey! It’s something Shrek might say, but visiting the donkey was one of the many attractions for sight seers at the annual Porcupine Fall on the weekend. Among those who visited the live animal displays were Marissa Baril, left, and Kayla Mason. Which way is up? Jillian Nemis of Timmins might have trying to figure that out as she enjoyed a “spin” on the Gyro Scope at the Porcupine Fall Fair on the weekend. The gyro device was one of the popular ‘hair raising’ attractions at the fair set up by Climb ‘N’ Fun, a Timmins based entertainment venture. Just hanging around! Seven-year-old Bailey Whissel of the McKinnon novice hockey club was one of many youngsters who tried the endurance “hang-on” device at the Porcupine Fall Fair on the weekend. The device was set up for youngsters to try to out-do each other in how long they could simply hang onto a bar while suspended above the ground. The event was a fundraiser for the McKinnon hockey club. Cutting it close. Perry Gauthier of Sudbury showed off his model flying skills at the Porcupine Fall Fair on the weekend. Gauthier was on hand as part of the Science Timmins display at the fall fair and delighted many youngsters by flying robotic model aircraft inside the Mountjoy Arena.

Cops continue crackdown on speeders

The Timmins Times
Timmins Police Service says the Aggressive Driver Hotline is working. Aggressive drivers are being reported on by alert citizens and the number of automobile accidents in Timmins is being reduced. Details released at a news conference Thursday show that from May until September, Timmins Police had 60 calls on the hotline. “The Timmins Police Service was able to investigate and send out 31 letters to registered owners regarding aggressive drivers of these vehicles,” said traffic sergeant Bill Aird(at right). He added that the remaining 29 complaints did not have enough information for police to conduct any follow up. But even though the hotline appears to be a successful enforcement tool, Timmins Police Chief Richard Laperriere says he is “alarmed” that too many drivers continue to drive too fast in Timmins. The chief says he is sending a clear message to aggressive drivers.
“Our message today is ‘yes we will continue to be aggressive in regards to enforcement. Yes, we will be out there’,” he said
“Our goal is clear. We want to reduce motor vehicle accidents, fatalities and personal injuries,” said the chief.
He says the priority for police at the moment is local school zones.
“As you all know, kids are back in school and I want to make it very clear today we are going to be very aggressive in regards to the speed limits in our school zones,” said the chief, adding that the speed limit in those zones is 40 kilometres per hour.
He adds however, that enforcement will occur in all parts of the city, day and night.
As an example of stepping up enforcement, the chief stated that at one point last week, police checked out the area of Connaught Hill and the Langmuir Road. He says police radar was on the scene for only 90 minutes and 22 vehicles were speeding. “The officer was there for an hour-and-a-half, and twenty-two vehicles speeding… that’s alarming to me,” said the chief(at right).
“I just don’t understand that. What’s the rush?” asked the chief.
He says driving over the speed limit is likely the number one concern in Timmins.
Laperriere says the news was not all bad.
“The good news is that our motor vehicle accidents are down by nine per cent,” said the chief, referring to local traffic accident numbers compared from July 2007 to July 2008.
“The hotline played a role in that. Our increased enforcement played a role in that,” he added.
Aird urges motorists to continue calling the hotline since he says it will help make Timmins a safer place to be for all drivers.
The aggressive driver hotline number is 360-8717.

Council approves paving Kamiskotia Highway

Timmins city council wasted no time this week dipping into the new $4 million bag of money handed over by the province for local infrastructure improvements.
Council met for a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to approve the spending of $1.7 million to do a once-and-for-all paving job on the Kamiskotia Highway.
And even though the vote was unanimous, some city councillors were alarmed and angry at how high the cost of asphalt has risen over the summer, allegedly in response to the higher cost of oil.
Council’s decision on the roadwork followed a presentation by city engineer Luc Duval who outlined that with savings from the current road program and adding money from the new provincial grant, the city can finally do a decent paving job on the full stretch of the Kamiskotia highway all the way to Leclair Avenue.
Part of the savings will come from canceling the $100,000 paving job for Legion Drive, since a review of that job indicates it will cost far more than $100,000. At the urging of John Curley, council committed to making that a priority job for next year.
The breakdown for the Kamiskotia highway job is as follows. There was $700,000 budgeted for work on it this year. The city has $400,000 it can re-assign from savings in other roadwork this year. The city adds $600,000 to the Kamiskotia project from the provincial grant received last week. Total cost = $1.7 million. Duval explained that he wanted to get the work done while the city is able to take advantage of a five-year price deal it had with Miller Paving, to buy asphalt at $89 per tonne, but he said the city also has to pay a new surcharge.
Council was told that due to the higher price of oil, Miller Paving instituted a surcharge of roughly $26 per tonne to push the price of asphalt up to $115 per tonne.
This angered council’s financial watchdog, councillor Denis Saudino, since the invoice for the extra surcharge arrived in August, long after the asphalt had been laid down on other road jobs. The extra cost was several thousands of dollars.
Both Duval and city administrator Joe Torlone explained that even with the surcharge, the Miller price was still a bargain, since the price was negotiated five years ago. Torlone said the city was aware that a surcharge might be applied since it was part of the original contract.
Saudino said he was upset that asphalt was supplied, and roadwork was done without Miller giving any up-front notice of the price change. He said it was unfair.
He said he was also upset that city staff seemed unaware of the price change until the bill arrived and it was too late to argue the point or at least negotiate.
“I think the supplier should have given us a heads-up. They knew the price when they were laying it down. Or they should have known the price.” Saudino told The Timmins Times.
“They buy their stuff in advance, right, so they know the cost of their stuff on hand,” he said. “So I mean if there’s a difference in the cost, they should warn their customers and the city of Timmins is one of their customers,” Saudino added.
“And for us not to know the price before we receive it, I think that’s not good business,” he said.
City councillor Bill Gvozdanovic suggested the Kamiskotia paving job at the bargain price, was “a no brainer”. He also suggested that council refrain from negative comments about Miller Paving lest the price of asphalt get any higher.

Bisson fears bus cuts will continue

Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson put Northern Development minister in the hot-seat this week, over the proposed cuts to Ontario Northland’s bus service. Bisson grilled MNDM Minister Michael Gravelle during the Standing Committee on Estimates meeting at Queen’s Park.
“Reducing services will result in a reduction in ridership. That is going to lead to a downward spiral on more reductions,” Bisson told the minister.
As the NDP Critic for Transportation, Bisson said he called on Gravelle to delay service cuts. “The Union is asking for the government and the ONTC to take another look at the situation. The Union has options but needs the Minister to consult with them, communities and riders.”
Bisson even offered his support for such a process. “I am in favour of making the ONTC more productive. But reducing services doesn’t equal productivity. Improving service will mean more riders, which in turn improves productivity and the bottom line.”
Bisson says the ONTC bus service is the ‘Go Transit’ of Northern Ontario.
“It is a crown agency that operates rail, bus and train service throughout the north. Go Transit is subsidized properly so why wouldn’t the ONTC receive similar treatment?” he asked.
Bisson says savings from the proposed cuts are not that costly and he asks why not have the Province offset any extra costs with adjustments to the provincial subsidy.
He says the ONTC can then re-examine the operation to find other areas for savings. Talking with the Union and communities is the first step, he said.

Wilson Avenue crashes

Paramedics, Firefighters and Timmins Police responded to two separate auto crashes on Wilson Avenue, near Preston Street, on Friday. Timmins city council has approved spending $15,000 on a traffic study to determine traffic patterns, and problems, on Wilson and nearby Cameron Street. One of the concerns voiced at a recent city council meeting is that motorists on Wilson Avenue drive at a high rate of speed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kidd Met Site union to begin talks with Xstrata

The Timmins Times
Bargaining begins on Monday as unionized members of the Xstrata Kidd Metallurgical Site approach the end of their current three-year contract. That contract expires at the end of this month.
The current contract came after more than 600 members of Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) local 599 went on strike on October 1, 2005. The strike ended after 29 days, when there was agreement on the new contract with the help of a government-appointed mediator.
The unionized Met Site workers also went on strike for 26 days, during July of 1999 to back demands for their first ever contract. CAW Local 599 bargaining committee chair Ben Lefebvre told The Timmins Times this week that he was happy to get the bargaining dates from the company.
“I am encouraged at the fact we have dates pre-set to the end of September, which is something that’s never happened in the last three rounds of bargaining,” said Lefebvre.
“I am hoping this is an indication that they truly want an agreement this time around as opposed to what’s happened in the last three rounds of bargaining.”
When asked by The Times if bargaining with Xstrata represents any sort of a significant change, Lefebvre replied, “only time will tell.”
“I mean locally the people who are running the show are still basically the same people that used to operate the place for Noranda, or are certainly ‘Noranda’ people that haven’t really moved away y’know after the Xstrata takeover two years ago,” said Lefebvre.
“Xstrata claims they are going to allow the local management team to make the decisions. Like I said, time will tell how true that is.” It was just last week that the company and the union exchanged documents containing each side’s formal proposals for a new contract.
Although Lefebvre says the setting of meeting dates is encouraging, he adds it was a long process to get to that point.
“We were hoping it was going to happen this spring, and hoping we could have the majority of it done even by now, but they kept stonewalling us up to the point where we finally got some dates … well actually these dates just came last week,” said Lefebvre.
“That’s when we got some firm commitments.”
The Times asked if anyone has mentioned the possibility of a strike.
“No, but let’s face it we’ve been through three rounds of bargaining so far and we’ve had two strikes,” said Lefebvre.
“Are people assuming the worst? Certainly some people are. Some people still have a bad taste in their mouth from the last couple of strikes that, from the bargaining unit perspective, were totally unnecessary,” he added.
“We’ve never gone overboard expecting more than what’s fair and equitable and affordable to the company. And so at this point in time, it’s a waiting game.”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labour Day March in Timmins

Karla Habla of Timmins, centre with the flag, led dozens of Timmins residents on the 10th annual Labour Day march around Gillies Lake this morning. Habla says the walk is a non-political and peaceful way to mark the day to honour workers rights. The march was attended by representatives of Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Auto Workers, as well as Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus, MPP Gilles Bisson and mayor Tom Laughren.