After 29 sleepless hours, Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) has reached a tentative agreement with its unionized workers.
Starting at 7 a.m. Monday July 22 and finishing at noon Tuesday, representatives from the Canadian Autoworkers Union (CAW) Local 2301 and RTA kneaded out a temporary contract to replace the one that expired at midnight last night.
“We’re all very happy that the strike is seemingly over; we haven’t ratified it yet,” says Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan. “It sends a message to all the other industries coming in here that we can work with industry.”
The mayor had high praise for CAW 2301 President Rick Belmont.
“I think Rick did a very good job negotiating and everyone is quite pleased that we can go on and it’s good for the community,” says Monaghan. “A five year agreement is very good.”
This contract came in time to stop a looming strike, as 72 hour notice was given to RTA last Friday. The new but not-yet-final contract includes increased worker pay and benefits among other things, and both parties are pleased with the result.
“We think it’s a good deal for both the employees and the company and it’s for 5 years,” said RTA spokesperson Colleen Nyce. “All of our agreements cover off employees who work in the smelter and employees who work in our powerhouse in Kemano.”
Nyce said the contract negotiated is a standard type contract.
“We negotiated wages and we negotiated certain other operational benefits for the employees,” she said. “The tone of the negotiations was very good and both parties worked very diligently and respectfully to reach and agreement and they did so without a labour stopping so we’re very pleased about that.”
Some of the contract details were released in a CAW Local 2301 press release this afternoon and full details will be provided to members later this week.
According to the release, some of the contract features include:
• 5 year agreement
• Wages: Year 1 – 3%, Year 2 – 2.5%, Year 3 – 2.5%, Year 4 – 2.5%, Year 5 – 3%
• Job security letter (no lay-offs) re-signed
• All temporary workers hired to full-time
• Five terminated temporary welders hired to full-time
• $2500.00 Signing bonus for regulars, temporaries and LTD members
• Agreement on classifications for workers in the KMP
• Pension multiplier increases
• Retiree benefits increases
• Active employee benefit increases
• Increases to Shift, Weekend, Skilled Trades and Kemano premiums
Contract ratification meetings were held last Thursday and Friday July 26th and July 27th at Mount Elizabeth High School Gym.
Etienne Jacques, RTA’s Chief Operating Officer, was very satisfied that an agreement has been reached that is good for both sides involved.
“We are pleased to have reached a tentative agreement with the union representatives at our Kitimat aluminium smelter and powerhouse operations in Kemano – one that is in the best interests of our workforce and reflects Rio Tinto Alcan’s long-term strategy and commitment to British Columbia,” said “This agreement will enable us to complete an efficient transition from the actual smelter to the new one and ensure our long term competitiveness. This is an important achievement, as we gear up for the transformational Kitimat modernization project”.
The Kitimat smelter produced 168,000 tonnes in 2011. The ongoing smelter modernization project will increase capacity to 420,000 tonnes per year.