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.”

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