United Steelworkers at Mount Polley vote in favour of strike action if necessary

United Steelworkers members at Imperial Metals — Mount Polley Mine have voted overwhelming to call for strike action if necessary.

United Steelworkers union members at Imperial Metals — Mount Polley Mine have voted overwhelming to allow their bargaining committee to call for strike action if necessary, as the union works to secure a new collective agreement.

The strike voted was conducted from April 9 to 10, resulting in 96.3 per cent of members voting in favour.

Randy Gatzka, USW staff representative, said the union represents 275 workers at the mine.

The existing collective agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2012. It was initially ratified in 2004, but then underwent a wage re-opener in 2007.

“From there it went forward until the end of 2012, so really from 2004, this is the first time employees have been able to bargain a collective agreement and put what’s important to them in front of the employer,” Gatzka said.

Outstanding issues include wages, RRSP contributions, and improvements to disability plans.

The union was in negotiations with the company from Sept. 18 until Mar. 29.

“It was going until the company said ‘that’s all.

“We felt they hadn’t addressed the major issues that we had prioritized.

“Following that the company said ‘go get a strike vote’ so we went out and got a strike vote,” Gatzka said.

He hopes the vote will show the company the workers are serious about the proposals they’ve put forward.

Mediation is scheduled for May 13 to 15.

Imperial Metals told the Tribune it would not comment on the strike vote.