Vale workers took to the picket lines Tuesday for the first time in a dozen years after rejecting a tentative deal reached by their union and the company.
“Our membership spoke and they are bringing the message back that concessions are not acceptable,” said Kevin Boyd, vice-president with USW 6500. “And very clearly, a lot of it is in benefits.”
Among the more unpopular changes outlined in the new five-year contract are the removal of retiree health benefits for any new hire and the elimination of over-the-counter drug coverage (except for life-sustaining medication).
Members also feel the wage increases — 0.5 per cent in each of the first two years and one per cent over each of the remaining three — are meagre given current market conditions and the company’s profits, and would have preferred to see a bigger boost to pensions.
According to the agreement, the monthly benefit for workers (with 30 or more years of employment) on the defined pension plan would grow by $100 over the course of the contract, increasing by $50 after one year and by the same amount after four.
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