Strike over: United Steelworkers ratify collective agreement with Raglan Mine
Union employees vote 60.8 per cent in favour; return to work begins Monday
The three-month labour dispute between Raglan Mine and its unionized employees is over.
Members of the United Steelworkers Union, Local 9449 — representing about 630 mine workers — voted 60.8 per cent in favour of the tentative agreement the two sides reached a week and a half ago, according to union representative Cimon Guy.
Approximately 71 per cent of the union’s members participated in the vote.
Workers are gradually going to return to work at the mine starting Monday, Guy said.
“It was quite the tough experience there, but we’re proud of our members, we felt that our members were behind us,” he said in an interview.
“They really pushed us to negotiate and get the best collective agreement that we could get.”
Guy would not say much about what’s in the new deal, other than that it will last for the next five years.
However, he emphasized part of the path forward includes a mutual understanding between the union and Glencore Group, the company that owns Raglan Mine, that both sides will continue meeting to discuss ways to improve working conditions for employees on the mine site.
“It’s a negotiations process, some of those points got left aside,” Guy said, highlighting broadly that some union members wanted to see more with regards to improved conditions.
“Both parties agreed that we’re going to sit down together and talk about them and work on them to hopefully make things better for everybody.”
Raglan Mine issued a news release Thursday evening welcoming the union’s vote.
“We welcome the ratification of this new collective agreement and are ready to turn the page on these past few months in order to work together to achieve our goals, while continuing to prioritize everyone’s safety,” said Raglan vice-president Pierre Barrette.
Both sides said they look forward to getting the mine, which has operated in Nunavik for the past 25 years, back up and running.
For Guy, he’s happy to see the union workers back on site, although the return to work may be a bit staggered as workers get back into their routines.
“Workers will be going back in progressively, depending on the different departments and the needs,” he said.
“It’s not going to be full production right away, they have to kind of ramp it back up.”
Raglan Mine is Nunavik’s largest private-sector employer. The nickel mine opened in 1997 following the signing of the Raglan Agreement in 1995.
The strike, which officially ended Thursday, began May 27 after the company and union initially failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the previous five-year contract that expired at the end of April.
According to Amélie Rouleau, a spokesperson for Glencore, this labour dispute was the first in the mine’s history.