MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada: Rio Tinto accused of "total disregard" for collective agreement

Published by MAC on 2015-01-18
Source: VOCM

The United Steelworkers Union at Rio Tinto's IOC (Iron Ore Company of Canada) mine in Labrador accuses the company of trying to "break the union", as no fewer than 2,500 grievances have been filed by workers over the past few months.

See also: Canada - New court victory for the Innu against Rio Tinto (IOC)

Steelworkers Union Files 2,500 Grievances Against IOC

VOCM (Canada)

9 January 2015

National Democratic Pary Leader) Lorraine Michael says government may have to intervene in what she calls the 'worsening labour climate' at IOC in Labrador West.

The Steelworkers Union has filed some 2,500 grievances on behalf of workers in the past few months. The union is now raising concerns about a change in the shift schedule that the company has introduced. Michael says the union has even gone so far as to call for an industrial inquiry into the matter.

Since a new agreement was reached in 2012, the union says the company has introduced shift changes that include seven 12 hour night shifts in a row. The union says the company has adopted a zero tolerance policy on various matters and six members have been fired so far.

Union President Ron Thomas accuses the company of trying to break the union.

He says one of their grievance cases cost the union $30,000. He says the company has a 'total disregard' for every article in their collective agreement.

IOC workers overwhelmingly vote against wage freeze

CBC News

13 February 2015

Unionized workers at the Iron Ore Company of Canada mine in Labrador City turned out by the hundreds Thursday night to vote against a proposed wage freeze.

Nearly 1,200 members of the United Steelworkers cast ballots, with 91 per cent rejecting a request by the company for the workers to give up a four per cent wage increase due to kick in on March 1.

The company was looking to eliminate the increase to offset slumping iron ore prices.

IOC seeking wage freeze from Labrador workers 
Ron Thomas, president of union local 5795, said workers believe the company can find other ways to save money.

He specifically referenced the presence of contract workers at the mine, which he says is costing the company four times more than a full-time unionized worker.

"They were asking for us to give up our wage increase of four per cent and we're still having a supplementary workforce come in and do our work," said Thomas.

"For us to agree with a wage cut right now of four per cent is totally insignificant on where we can save the money in different areas."

Profits soaring at Rio Tinto

The union vote came on the same day that Rio Tinto, the majority owner of the IOC mine in Labrador City, announced that profits were up 78 per cent in 2014.

The company attributed its strong results to an increase in production at its worldwide operations, and cost-cutting measures.

Iron ore prices fell by half last year as major producers such as Rio Tinto dramatically upped production, leading to an oversupply.

It was part of a strategy to drive out higher costs miners, and is being blamed for the closure of the nearby Wabush Mines, resulting in the loss of nearly 500 jobs.

Thomas said workers in Labrador City are well aware of Rio Tinto's strong financial situation, but he doesn't believe it was a major factor in the way people voted.

He said the company offered no protection against future layoffs, temporary shutdowns or an increase in the number of contract workers at the site.

Thomas added he's not sure how the company will respond to the union vote, but he's ready to discuss possible savings with the company.

"We want to help this company save money, and we want to produce and produce safely, but the biggest thing for us is I can't see it coming off the backs of us; reducing our wages when we can see them wasting it in other areas of the project."


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