Mine Mill Local 598/CAW began negotiating a new contract with Xstrata Nickel on behalf of its 900 members who work for the company Dec. 14.
The union's three-year deal with Xstrata Nickel expires at midnight Jan. 31.
So far, negotiations have been “cordial and sincere,” and the bargaining committee is cautiously optimistic a new contract can be reached without a labour dispute, a press release from the union said.
“We've had a good relationship with them over the last three years,” said Local 598 president Richard Paquin. “All indications so far are they want to maintain that.”
Negotiations will continue through the Christmas season as both parties try to come to an agreement, he said. If a deal isn't reached by mid-January, Local 598 will hold a strike vote, Paquin said.
During the last set of negotiations in 2010, a deal wasn't reached until the early morning hours of Feb. 1, a few hours after the contract expired.
In the end, the union didn't give up any concessions, and it doesn't plan to do so this time, either, Paquin said. The 2010 negotiations were difficult, but “all negotiations are difficult,” he said.
The last set of negotiations were held in the middle of Steelworkers Local 6500's year-long strike against Vale. Local 6500 now has a deal with Vale that doesn't expire until May 31, 2015.
Paquin said his own union went on strike twice in the early 2000s — six and a half months in 2000 and three weeks in 2004 — when the company was still owned by Falconbridge.
However, since Xstrata bought out Falconbridge in 2006, Local 598 has negotiated two contracts in a row without going on strike, and hopes to negotiate a third, he said.