The president of Mine Mill Local 598/CAW said he’s “not one bit” concerned that his members will end up in the same position as the more than 3,000 striking members of Steelworkers Local 6500.
Richard Paquin said the union and Xstrata Nickel will start negotiations Dec. 16 in anticipation of the Feb. 1, 2010 contract deadline.
“We’ve already notified the company that if they do want to take that chance and give us that contract (the same contract being offered to Vale Inco), we’ll be in the same position as they (Local 6500) are,” said Paquin.
“But the company is telling us ‘don’t compare us to Vale Inco. We’re Xstrata Nickel. We want to make our own deal.’”
Paquin said the company hasn’t “really indicated any big ideas of what they would like” to see in a contract with Local 598.
Xstrata Nickel purchased Falconbridge in 2006, and in 2007, Local 598 was able to negotiate a contract without going on strike. This was the first time since 1987 the union was able to avoid going on strike, he said.
The union was on strike against Falconbridge in 2000 and 2001 for seven months, and in 2004 for three weeks.
“They (Xstrata Nickel) are a little different to deal with. We kind of like that,” Paquin said.
Earlier this year, Xstrata Nickel laid off almost 700 workers in Sudbury in the wake of collapsing nickel prices.
Paquin said 580 of his union members are currently working at the company on a permanent basis. However, about 1,100 will be able to vote on the contract because the company could, technically, call them back to work.
Xstrata probably won’t want Local 598 workers going on strike because they’ll want to keep the Nickel Rim South Mine running, Paquin said.
“Nickel Rim South is their only operating mine generating a positive cash flow. They’ll need that because of all the other mines they have shut down because of the markets.”
Local 598 isn’t the only union in the mining sector with a contract which expires soon. Steelworkers Local 2020 will start negotiating with Vale Inco early in 2010 on behalf of 300 of its members who work at the company.
The union’s contract with Vale Inco expires March 31, 2010. Local 2020 is currently in the process of deciding what proposals it will make to the company in contract negotiations.
Local 2020 president Roger Morin said he thinks “the entire set of negotiations will have a different flavour” than those between Vale Inco and Steelworkers Local 6500.
“I don’t believe, at this point in time, that they’ll take the same approach with this group. Their contract is somewhat different, in terms of language, benefits, nickel bonus and pensions,” said Morin.
“On the other hand, it’s possible that Vale may be looking for some concessions from that group, as they did for 6500. It’s still too early to tell. We’ll see once they actually go to the table.”