Members of UNIFOR local 3019 walk the picket line at the Myra Falls mine ore loading facility at Tyee Spit in Campbell River June 4. The union walked off the job June 3 after negotiations with mine owner Nyrstar failed to close the gap between the two sides. Photo by AlistaIr Taylor – Campbell River Mirror

Vancouver Island mine workers strike for a new contract

Union says it wants to recoup concessions made to help get Myra Falls mine back on its feet

Unionized workers at Nyrstar’s Myra Falls mine walked off the job June 3 in an effort to move contract negotiations along.

“Bargaining just broke down,” said Jim Dixon, UNIFOR national representative Jim Dixon. “We’re too far apart.”

The issue from the union’s point of view is to bring wages back to a level prior to previous contracts negotiated to help the company sell the mine. A closure agreement had been negotiated with the company when the mine was closed in 2015 and then a subsequent agreement was negotiated in 2017 to help the company sell the operation. Those contracts contained a lot of concessions to make the mine more appealing to a buyer.

“And so during all that time, of course, there was no wage increases and in 2017 when we negotiated there was a lot of concessions given to try to make it more appealing to someone to buy it,” Dixon said. “The company assured us they were going to sell it. Anyway, they didn’t end up selling it.”

The company ended up opening the mine, instead, and it had just recently got back up to full production, Dixon said.

RELATED: Myra Falls Mine near Campbell River to resume operations

“So the issues at the bargaining table are to start to address some of the concessions during the term of this agreement and start to bring the wages back, once you adjust for inflation, to where we were in 2014.”

Dixon said that contract negotiations hadn’t reached an impasse, per se, it was just that the two sides were just too far apart.

UNIFOR local 3019 members have been without a contract since the last one expired in October, 2020. Negotiations for a new contract got underway just before that time with the previous owners and what ended up happening was the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to continue negotiations, so talks were slowed down. Then at the end of last year, new owners Trafigura took control of Nyrstar and essentially replaced the management that UNIFOR was negotiating with.

“They asked to sort of step down talks until they could get into position to get the new management in place,” Dixon said.

Consequently, negotiations didn’t really get back on track until April of this year.

Dixon said he could see the strike going either way, settling relatively quickly or going on for some time. He said the members, 312 of whom are on strike, are frustrated by the situation which he believes may be a holdover from the previous ownership.

“But it’s really about getting a fair contract,” Dixon said.

The company has spent a lot of money to acquire the mine and get it up and running, he said, so they’ve lost a lot of money over the past few years but mineral prices are really high and productivity is actually really high.

“So, I think there’s a lot of money to be made and so our members just want to start recouping some of the concessions that they made to try and get the mine back to this position,” Dixon said. “Trafigura is a huge company. They are a multinational company. They have deep pockets so we’re hoping they come to their senses and realize that they’re better to have a fair contract with us and having us mine the ore than it is to have us sitting on a picket line.”


@AlstrT
editor@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

Proposed design for the Topaz Park bike and skate park elements. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Victoria requesting feedback on Topaz Park redesign

Public input now being taken for proposed skate, bike park ideas

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read