BY KEITH LACEY
It doesn?t appear a two-week extension to avoid a strike will have made any difference for 300 unionized office, clerical and technical workers at Inco?s Sudbury operations.
Although talks continued at a downtown hotel between the bargaining committee for Local 2020 of the United Steelworkers of America and Inco officials, there were still numerous outstanding issues to be resolved, according to union president Gary Quig.
?We?ve still got a long way to go yet so I?m not optimistic at this point,? said Quig Tuesday morning. ?As long as both parties are listening, there?s still a chance we can get something done. Some people are excited we?re still talking, but we need the other side to listen instead of talk if we?re going to
The membership was prepared to go on strike as of April 1, but gave the bargaining committee a two-week extension to try and hammer out a new deal.
The last two weeks have not brought the parties any closer together on the key issues of signing bonus, wages and pension improvements, said Quig.
?The signing bonus issue is a key stumbling block,? he said. ?We want one, but the company isn?t offering one.
?We also want improvements on wages and pensions and again we remain apart on those key issues.?
The same provincial mediator from the Ministry of Labour who has been involved in these talks over the past several weeks returned to town Monday, said Quig.
The union?s bargaining committee and company?s negotiating team met face to face for the first time in a long time Monday, but there wasn?t a lot of
progress and both sides continued to exchange ideas using the mediator Tuesday, said Quig.
When asked if there?s a chance the union will ask for another extension to continue talks, Quig gave an emphatic ?no.?
?We?ll have a deal by Wednesday at midnight or else we?ll be out on strike,? he said. ?The membership is fully behind us on that.?
The union represents employees in numerous departments spread across Inco?s Sudbury operations, including administration, payroll, mines technical services, systems analysts, power department and water treatment.
Cory McPhee, Inco?s director of public affairs for Sudbury operations, said he hopes both sides will be open to continuing talks Tuesday and
Wednesday and will try and reach an agreement to avoid a strike.