Approximately 950 production and maintenance workers from Local 480 and 160 office/technical employees from Local 9705 at Teck began working without a new contract this week.
The five-year collective agreement between Teck Trail Operations and the USW locals expired Wednesday.
Negotiations are ongoing and some progress has been made, says Armindo deMedeiros, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 480.
“We will continue until an agreement is reached,” deMedeiros told the Trail Times on Thursday.
The locals’ bargaining committee released a joint statement on May 26, announcing the union and company had concluded discussions regarding “non-monetary items,” and were in the process of reviewing and finalizing “monetary packages.”
The bargaining team stated its plan to exchange proposals with Teck in the last week of May.
“Our current Collective Agreement will expire on May 31,” the committee stated. “But will remain in full force and effect until a new agreement has been ratified or until the negotiations are discontinued by either party.”
A plan for negotiations forged ahead six months ago (December) in meetings with bargaining committees from Local 480 and Local 9705.
In early March, with the assistance of the Steelworker’s International and district offices, they held a two-day training session for members of the Communication Action Team (CAT). Over 40 members from both locals formed CAT, a committee being used to help the bargaining team get information to its membership.
Later that month, the committees then met jointly with Jeff Richardson, an economist from the National USW Office, to review priorities identified by the membership, as well as costing and national bargaining trends.
Members then met in Trail for a presentation of the union’s proposals in April, following a protocol meeting between the bargaining committee and Teck.
Looking back at the previous two agreements, one in 2008 the other in 2012, union members voted and reached a new agreement before mid-June.
Signing a five-year contract in 2012 was a departure from past agreements, in that it was one year longer than the customary four-year deal the union typically signed, deMedeiros told the Trail Times on June 8 that year.
The change in negotiation strategy was generated by a younger workforce, deMedeiros told the Trail Times following the 2012 signing.
The evolution in the age of the workforce has also brought the air of a new era to the work environment at Teck, as well as between the company and the union, he added.
“The membership is content and we are leaning towards a younger workforce right now so, for a lot of them, it’s their first big paying job and they are content with what they are doing,” he said. “And a contract like this shows the commitment from the company, too.”
The 2012 collective agreement included the biggest signing bonus, $10,000, the union had ever received.
Additionally, the deal carried an 18 per cent increase over five years of the contract, and a $12 boost to pension.