Kitimat’s months-long strike ends with approval of new Collective Agreement

New collective agreement agreed to, bringing employees back to work this Friday.

On June 9, Unifor 2300 and the District of Kitimat announced a tentative Collective Agreement had been reached.

Ratification came soon afterwards, with union members supporting the deal the evening following the announcement, and Kitimat Council ratifying the agreement on their end on June 10.

The conclusion to the over 100 day-long strike comes as a relief to Mayor Phil Germuth.

“Overall we’re just extremely happy that it’s finally over,” he said.

Council met to approve the agreement at a special closed meeting June 10.

Germuth said it passed fairly easily save for one issue, which he couldn’t elaborate on due to the closed nature of the meeting. (‘Labour relations’ is one of the categories of topics that are allowed in the closed portion of council meetings.)

“There was a minor [hold up] but other than that no, we’re happy to get our workers back, we’re happy to be able to eventually get our recreation facilities open,” he said.

The specific details of the agreement were not yet publicly released but we’re told the agreement will be posted for viewing sometime in the coming weeks.

The District on their website did say that for this agreement, “in addition to numerous increases to benefits, the agreement includes wage increases of 2.5 percent in 2015, 2.5 percent in 2016 and 3.0 percent in 2017.”

The District says that some employees will go back to work by this Friday while some departments will have a phased-in return to work plan

Germuth said he’s looking forward to building inspections resuming and the repair of a number of water mains in town.

The union is thankful to the community for its support.

“We couldn’t have done it without the rock-solid support of the community and Unifor members from across the country,” said Martin McIlwrath, Local 2300 Business Agent, in a Unifor press release. “The solidarity and patience shown by the people of Kitimat made the difference.”

Unifor says the new collective agreement sets a minimum number of permanent staff that must be maintained, including replacing retiring workers. The raises were also in line with those negotiated between Local 2301 and Rio Tinto Alcan.

For relationship building leading to the next Collective Agreement, Germuth said the town is committed to being more engaged in dealing with any issues.

“Relationship building, that’s got to be communication, right? We know [that] over the past Collective Agreement we’ve had the option with council that we were going to meet twice a year with the union and for various reasons it didn’t happen. So we’re going to make sure now that it happens. If we don’t get a call from the union we’ll be calling them,” he said.

As for the lingering question of if there were any second thoughts to how the negotiations were handled, Germuth said he continues to stand by the negotiating team.

“We’re not critical of any of our negotiating teams at all for the way they conducted themselves,” he said. “We’re very confident in the team we had. We have no issues with the way we handled things. We thought we were negotiating in good faith the whole time, and we believed in our offers, the one we have put out.”

He adds, “If I would have done anything different over those last three years we would have been initiating those meetings with the union to discuss things before it gets to contract time and all this stuff comes up…It would have good to know that beforehand to be able to start working on it.”