Teck – New contract gets strong support from union members

Union members gave 87.9% "yes" vote on the new collective agreement.

The sun is shining a little brighter this week now that the details of the deal Local 480 of the United Steelworkers union signed Friday have sunk in.

The membership gave its loudest ringing endorsement on a deal that they ever have, with 87.9 per cent of the membership (778 members) that voted saying ‘Yes’ to the tentative collective agreement struck one week prior, with 104 against.

With 885 members voting—80 per cent of the total membership—it was obvious the deal the negotiators had reached with the management of Teck Trail Operations was one they wanted, said Armindo deMedeiros, Local 480 vice president.

“It was one of the highest ratification votes we ever had. It’s the highest I’ve ever seen here,” he said.

Teck Trail Operations and locals 480 and 9705 of the United Steelworkers put final signatures on the new collective agreement for Trail operations after one month of negotiationstim that began in earnest April 30.

The agreement was ratified and commences June 1, running through to May 31, 2017, replacing the three-year agreement that expired May 31.

The agreement was a departure from past deals, said deMedeiros, being one year longer than the customary four the union typically signs, and included the biggest signing bonus the union has ever pulled in at $10,000.

But the bonus and the longer contract duration was what the membership wanted, he said, after a priority sheet put out to its membership earlier in the year listed them as top priorities heading into negotiations.

Considering what Teck unions on other properties had signed for—including Sparwood, Fording River and Elkview—in their negotiations in the last few months, Local 480 was right in line with their demands.

Traditionally the Trail union liked to negotiate with any extra money asked for being put into wages or the pension, but for this time around the signing bonus was pretty high on the priority list, deMedeiros said.

“Everybody seemed to want that money,” he said. “Right from the very beginning the membership was on us that they wanted the same (as the other unions). So our hands were pretty tied on that one. If we didn’t deliver … I don’t think the contract would have gone through without that signing bonus.”

The change in negotiation strategy was generated by a younger workforce, he added. The evolution in the age of the workforce has also brought the air of a new era to the work environment at Teck, said deMedeiros, as well as between the company and the union.

“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 explained. “And a contract like this shows the commitment from the company, too.”

The contract covers 1,180 people in Local 480 on the production and maintenance side, and 170 people in Local 9705 for the office and technical workers.

The deal carried an 18 per cent increase over five years of the contract, a $12 boost to the pension, and a $10,000 signing bonus.