MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin has welcomed the agreement of a new contract that will see about 300 United Steelworkers wages, pensions and benefits increase by 50 per cent over six years as a big victory for the union.
USW Local 4466 members who work at Rio Tinto's ilmenite mine near Havre-Saint-Pierre, QC, ratified the new collective agreement this week.
"It’s important that we let employers know that we won't stand idly by and allow them to cut wages and conditions which impact directly on the lives of their workforce and their families.”
“The trade union movement is constantly facing a war against workers, and it’s a credit to the USW that they have been able to negotiate a lucrative contract for their members,
“Unfortunately we at the MUA know only too well the consequences of employer militancy and a lack of bargaining in good faith,” Mr Crumlin said.
"We achieved everything we wanted to," said Alain Croteau, USW North Shore Area Coordinator.
"Rio Tinto understood that it was better to negotiate than to endure a labour dispute.”
The workers made major wage gains - an average of 4.8 per cent annually - that surpass increases achieved recently at other employers in the region.
The union fought not only to perverse its defined benefit pension plan, but also achieved improvements to the plan, including indexed benefits for existing pensioners. As well, workers' contributions to the plan will be reduced by 40 per cent, with the company assuming a larger share of the costs.
"We went on strike in 2007 to maintain our pension plan and we succeeded again this year," said USW Local 4466 President Steeve Arsenault. "It was a tough battle, given that defined benefit pension plans are becoming increasingly rare."
Other highlights of the new collective agreement include a $6,000 signing bonus, vacation improvements, a new drug payment card for workers and pensioners, as well as improved life insurance for workers and pensioners.
Reflecting on a previous dispute in Alma, Quebec, which saw Rio Tinto lockout 780 members of the United Steelworkers for over 6 months, MUA Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman, said the new contract was another big win for the Canadian workers.
“The outcome for the United Steelworkers is another absolute victory."
“This is not the first time that the United Steelworkers have took on the third largest mining company in the world and won,” Mr Doleman said.
“The outcomes negotiated in the settlement are a credit to their union, the community and families. Congratulations.”
[Picture: Marc Maltais, Local 9490 President (left) and Guy Farrell, USW District 5 (right) spoke to the rank and file at the MUA National Conference about their dispute with Rio Tinto in Alma, Quebec]