Steelworkers in Labrador City prepare to negotiate a new contract
The union at the Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador City is now preparing to negotiate a new collective agreement.
The contract for United Steelworkers Local 5795, representing approximately 1,500 hourly workers, expires at the end of February 2018.
Union members have put their negotiating committee in place, and in recent weeks, two meetings were held for members to ratify the demands they want negotiators to bring forward to the company on their behalf. The president of local 5795, Ron Thomas, told the Aurora those demands are confidential, and the union would not discuss them with the media prior to negotiations.
“The Labrador City negotiating committee would meet soon with their counterparts in SeptIles, Quebec to discuss common issues, as the contract expiry date is the same for that location,” Thomas said. “After that, the union hopes to inform the company they are ready to start talks on a new collective agreement. We would like to start talks before the end of the year.”
The current agreement is for six years and is the longest contract that union has ever negotiated. Traditionally most contracts have been for three years.
The current contract negotiations come at an interesting time for iron ore markets. After a boom around the last contract, markets slumped, two mines in the area (Wabush and Bloom Lake) closed, IOC’s project Wabush 3 (a new pit development) was put on hold and development of the Alderon Kami project was put on hold as well.
But there has been some improvement in markets, the IOC Wabush 3 project is now underway, Bloom Lake is moving forward, Wabush Mines is in the process of reopening and Alderon says it will move ahead with the Kami project. This is an interesting time for the iron ore industry worldwide.
In recent weeks, markets have been fluctuating, with prices often closely tied to the demands of China. New mines have opened in various parts of the world, and there is an emphasis on efficiency and productivity. Much has changed in the industry since the last contract was signed almost six years ago. Other Steelworkers unions, such as the workers at Arcelor Mittal in nearby Mont Wright, have signed a new wage and working agreement. These factors should make for interesting discussions around the bargaining table.
This paper will follow the progress of these talks in the months to come.
USW local president Ron Thomas