Unifor Local 2301 members picketing outside of the Rio Tinto smelter in Kitimat BC. (Jacob Lubberts photo)

Unifor Local 2301 members picketing outside of the Rio Tinto smelter in Kitimat BC. (Jacob Lubberts photo)

Unifor Local 2301 publicly states what they are fighting for in collective agreement

Unifor said Rio Tinto proposed cutting vision and dental coverage for retired employees

With little detail from both parties as to what’s involved in contract talks between the Unifor Local 2301 union and Rio Tinto, the union has come out with a news bulletin update.

It’s in response to what Rio Tinto general manager, Affonso Jr. Bizon, says is misinformation being distributed by Unifor to its members.

According to the union, if Rio Tinto’s terms were accepted for a new contract, a temporary employee would have to work 2,080 hours straight to get ‘company seniority’ benefits, which is 580 hours more than the collective agreement.

In order to maintain those benefits, temporary employees who have achieved ‘company seniority’ but worked less than 1,040 hours straight in a six-month block would lose their benefits for the next six months, the union states.

And to get their benefits back, they’d have to work an additional 1,040 hours in the following six-month block.

The union bulletin also said temporary employees would not be eligible for earned time off during preferred periods, something the union says translates into no summer vacations.

Unifor said Rio Tinto proposed cutting vision coverage for retired employees who are hired after July 2021 once they reach their 70th birthday and cutting dental coverage for workers hired July 2021 upon retirement.

Furthermore, the union also stated, if a retired employee, hired before July 24, 2021, dies before their 70th birthday, Rio Tinto will only provide vision and dental coverage to their surviving spouse for an additional 48 months. This means, no extension of vision or dental care will be provided to a spouse after their loved one, who was hired after July 2021, dies.

Rio Tinto says it is unable to make a comment about bargaining details, adding both parties agreed to keep negotiations confidential.

Rio Tinto has confirmed it has begun reducing production of aluminum at its Kitimat smelter to 35 per cent of normal and will be working with 265 non-union staff until the labour dispute between it and Unifor Local 2301, which escalated into a strike July 25, is resolved.

READ MORE: BC Labour Relations Board lay down the law during labour dispute