Members of the Canadian Auto Workers (C.A.W.) Local 3018 have voted 99 per cent in favour of striking at Taseko’s Gibraltar Mine near Williams Lake.
Voting took place by union members on Nov. 21 and 22.
“We’re hoping that it will get some momentum in terms of bargaining,” C.A.W. national representative Pete Smith said Friday, Nov. 23. “We’re meeting again with the employer on Dec. 3 and 4.”
While Smith wasn’t willing to pinpoint main issues presently at the bargaining table, he said there are “a lot of outstanding issues pending both in the non-monetary and the monetary components.”
There are approximately 470 C.A.W. members presently employed at the mine. Prior to the expansion of the mill over the last couple of years there were around 250 C.A.W. employees. The number has almost doubled.
At this point, the workers are not in a legal position to strike.
They will have to serve 72-hour notice, but won’t consider that until after the outcomes of the meetings with Taseko in December, Smith said.
Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice president of corporate affairs, said the employer wants to move forward without any labour interruptions.
“We’ve invested $700 million to secure Gibraltar as a long term producer so that it can survive the ups and downs of the metal markets. When we reopened the mine after keeping it closed for five years after we acquired it, we had 280 total employees,” Battison said. “This year alone we invested $325 million. Gibraltar was one of the highest cost producers in the world. It’s one of the lowest, if not the lowest grade copper mine in the world. It’s hard to operate and make money.”
In order to make the mine an economic success and secure its future, the company invested and reduced its operating costs, making it a more “economically stable mine” compared to other mines in the world, Battison said. “We’re now in the middle of the pack and we need to continue to move our efforts forward, but we need to make sure we’re managing the mine within the economic realities we face.”
Battison said total work force at Gibraltar is 630, and with the expansion the plan is to hire more workers in the future.