District says little on union letter, while MLA has spoken with Rio Tinto

Unifor 2301 is seeking support from the government to lobby on their behalf against mandatory overtime at the smelter.

Unifor 2301 has sought support from the various levels of government for issues relating to what it says is mandatory overtime at the Kitimat aluminum smelter.

In a letter released late November the union says they’ll be looking for support from the municipal, provincial and federal level to lobby against Rio Tinto on its workforce practices in Kitimat.

The letter by the union was an item in council’s December 7 meeting package, but when that item came up the council opted to receive for information, but set no discussion or plan to address it.

At the time the letter was first released from the union Mayor Phil Germuth said there had at that time been no formal request for action from the council on the matter.

Skeena MLA Robin Austin meanwhile says he has since been formally contacted to lobby on behalf of the workers at the smelter.

Austin says many workers at the smelter are concerned by the mandatory overtime and the impacts it has on worker safety who may be pushed to exhaustion, and to the impacts to their families as well.

He said he has made contact with Rio Tinto on the matter and while he wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the conversation he said he has said his piece and will see where it goes from there.

The company has previously told the Sentinel that the increase in overtime for employees is relating to the efforts to bring the smelter towards what they call “steady state” as the bulk of construction of the modernized smelter has been complete.

“Health, safety and the environment is our top priority for Rio Tinto. Obviously we don’t want to do anything that risks the safety of our employees, our workers or our contractors on site,” said Rio Tinto spokesperson Kevin Dobbin.