Union representatives were confident a tentative deal with Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations would be approved Tuesday as production and maintenance workers packed a conference room at the Radisson Hotel to place their votes.
And indeed it was, by a 79 per cent margain. The four-year deal, recommended by the bargaining committee for Mine Mill Local 598 Unifor, will see a two-percent wage increase over the length of the contract and a couple of tweaks to dental and drug plans, but no major concessions.
“This one was a tough one, I have to say,” said chief negotiator Richard Paquin, a veteran of four previous rounds of bargaining. “With the price of nickel hovering around $4.20 or $4.30 (per pound), versus what it was four years ago, around $8, it makes bargaining a lot different.”
On top of that market dip, Glencore mines are “dwindling down,” he noted, and two new projects the company wants to pursue — Onaping Depth and Nickel Rim Deep — still require financing.
“So it’s hard to find a balance between making sure we get some gains, enough to continue working and have a good future, and making sure the next generation of our members have a place to go work for,” he said.
Paquin said ore supplies at Fraser Mine and Nickel Rim South are only expected to last another half-dozen years. Should the new projects go ahead, that would keep Glencore workers busy for another decade or more, he said, but the company needs a $1.4-billion investment to make those projects a reality.
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