New Deal with Rio-Tinto Alcan in Kitimat

August 7, 2012, 2:45 PM EST

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CAW Local 2301 members ratified a new four-year collective agreement with Rio Tinto Alcan in the northern community of Kitimat, B.C on July 27. The deal was ratified by an overwhelming margin of 94 per cent.

After a grueling round of negotiations, which resulted in a 29-hour extension of talks beyond the initial strike deadline, the union bargained wage increases of between 2.5 and 3 per cent in each year of the deal, with an additional signing bonus of $2,500. The committee was also successful in re-signing a joint job security letter which ensures no layoffs during the life of the agreement and made gains on pensions and benefits for active members and retirees.

Local union president Rick Belmont said the demands of the mining corporation mirrored many of those that saw nearly 800 United Steelworkers union members in Alma, Quebec locked out for six-and-a-half months. The list of company concessions included the contracting out and outsourcing of work as well as demanding a defined contribution pension plan for new hires.

"In a show of solidarity, our members voted to increase monthly dues and have those sent as strike support funds for Rio Tinto Alcan workers in Alma," Belmont said. "We wanted to send the company a strong message that workers will stand together and won't be forced into accepting below standard contracts."

Belmont said that the company is now investing $4.3 billion into building a new smelter in Kitimat, with construction already underway.

The bargaining committee also successfully converted all 51 temporary workers employed in the smelter to full-time jobs. Five terminated temporary welders were also hired back on full time.

"We made sure no one was left behind in this round of bargaining," Belmont said.

Jerry Dias, CAW Assistant to the President, said this employer entered negotiations thinking they could bully the membership as well as the local leadership and community into accepting their demands.

"Our bargaining committee wouldn't stand for it and continued bargaining beyond the deadline in an effort to avoid an employer-driven strike. Without that push by the local leadership, the outcome of these talks could have been very different."

CAW B.C./Alberta Area Director Susan Spratt said the local bargaining committee received the highest ever strike mandate, as well as the largest margin for ratification, of any contract in the local's history.

"The fact that the membership was united with the local, national and community leadership made a huge difference for all of us at the bargaining table. Rio Tinto Alcan got the message loud and clear: the community of Kitimat supported the union."

CAW Local 2301 represents 1150 workers at the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter and Kemano power generating facility in Kitimat.

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