New Raglan Mine offer ‘worse’ than previous: Steelworkers
Company disputes union’s claims, says it’s ‘negotiating alone’
The union representing 630 Raglan Mine workers said its members rejected the company’s July 10 contract offer because it was “worse” than the previous version they turned down – something the company disputes.
This week, 76.7 per cent of United Steelworkers members voted against the offer Raglan Mine presented a week and a half ago, the union reported Wednesday.
Cimon Guy, a union representative, said Raglan’s most recent offer, made July 10, presented less than what its May offer contained, including fewer “liberation” days to allow union employees to take on tasks that would keep the union going.
At the heart of the dispute, Guy said, the union wants to see the company use fewer subcontractors on site as part of any new agreement. The union claims some of those contract workers take away union work.
“They put these contractors, they make them do our job, and the recourse we have to fight that is very little,” Guy said.
“We try to put things in writing to clarify, to specify: these are tasks that should be done by unionized employees.”
Pay is also an issue, Guy said.
Neither side has publicly disclosed the terms that had been discussed before negotiations broke down earlier this month.
According to Guy, Raglan’s claims of having the best salaries in the mining industry are untrue, and there are more competitive wages in the south that offer better job flexibility.
“We’re losing all sorts of different trades because people are making better money, being at home every night,” he said.
“People are making all the same money and being down south with their family.”
Amélie Rouleau, a spokesperson for Raglan Mine, disputes Guy’s claims about the subcontractor issue and pay.
She said the company’s latest offer was an improvement over its May offer, and that the union has not been in active negotiations.
“Sometimes we’ve been almost negotiating alone because they were not part of the discussion,” she said.
On the subcontractor issue, Rouleau said many of those workers are temporary and do not take away a union job.
At the same time, Rouleau said that Inuit partners who are subcontracted for some of the work are important to keep because of the economic benefits they bring to their communities.
“Giving some concession on that regard is going against the Raglan Agreement and against the fact that we’re trying to increase the number of Inuit businesses working at Raglan, so that’s where we kind of took a step back,” Rouleau said.
The union’s strike will continue and negotiations appear to be at a standstill. Both sides have said they want to meet in the middle and end this nearly two-month-long dispute.
“We’re ready to sit back down and negotiate at any time. Unfortunately, in the way that things were set up in the last few weeks, they’ve set ultimatums,” Guy said.
“Even after the strike, we’re always ready to sit down, so we’ll be waiting for their call.”
Rouleau said the company hopes to see an agreement soon, even though the path forward seems uncertain.
“We’re very disappointed, this is the best package right now in the mining industry and people are refusing it,” she said.
Raglan Mine produces nickel ore and other metals. Owned by the multinational Glencore Group, it is Nunavik’s largest private-sector employer with approximately 630 unionized workers.
The mine opened in 1997 following the signing of the Raglan Agreement in 1995.