No plans to talk in IOC labour dispute

Moira Baird
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Mining 'It became obvious the discussions cannot go forward'

Neither side in the IOC strike can agree on why talks broke down Tuesday - and there are no efforts underway to restart those talks.

The company says it agreed to five items presented by a conciliator, and left the table when more items were added to that list.

United Steel Workers Atlantic co-ordinator Ken Dawson (left) collected his boarding pass Wednesday afternoon and headed back to Moncton, N.B. Accompanied to Wabush Airport by USW Local 5795s president, George Kean (centre), and vice-president Ron Thomas,

Neither side in the IOC strike can agree on why talks broke down Tuesday - and there are no efforts underway to restart those talks.

The company says it agreed to five items presented by a conciliator, and left the table when more items were added to that list.

The union denies that, saying IOC wouldn't commit to anything in writing and should return to the negotiating table.

Unionized workers at IOC in Labrador City have been on strike since March 9. Talks restarted Sunday and broke off around Tuesday dinner time.

"It became obvious the discussions cannot go forward," said Michel Filion, spokesman for the Iron Ore Company.

"We said yes to five issues they asked the conciliator to bring to IOC, and we said yes to all of them. ... they came back with more, more, more.

"That's why we stopped talking."

George Kean, president of the United Steelworkers Local 5795, disagrees.

"There were no new items."

He says the union was looking for the formal language covering the existing issues.

"It's not new issues. We just want what they verbally agreed to.

"We can't read minds or intentions. The only thing we can know is what's actually in writing."

Seniority, security top issues

Kean says the No. 1 issue is seniority and job security, and he calls the five other issues a framework for discussion.

"We said, 'Here's a framework that we can look at and all the negotiating committees from Quebec and Newfoundland could recommend to their members,' and they just got up and said within five minutes, 'We're not even going there.'"

Filion says the five issues that IOC agreed to are:

modify the employee transfer system;

give preferential student hiring for dependents of IOC employees;

add $1,000 to the $4,000 signing bonus, plus a continuation of the success bonus system during good years at the company;

provide an extra $250,000 in prescription drug coverage for employees that have used their maximum coverage;

pay $100,000 for the union negotiating team members at three locals for the lost-time wages during the strike.

On the preferential hiring issue, Kean says the union was looking for a letter saying the company agreed to that item.

When it came to signing bonuses, the union asked that both the additional $1,000 and the success bonuses instead be used as employee travel allowances.

"They refused to do it," Kean said.

The union wanted the additional money for drug coverage to also include retired workers. Each employee receives drug coverage up to $40,000.

As for compensation for the negotiating team's lost-time wages, Kean says that money covers the cost of negotiations among all locals within the union.

"That's normally taken care of after the negotiations."

Kean says both sides are close to an agreement - and one could have been reached if the company had stayed at the negotiating table.

"We're waiting for the employer.

"They got up and walked out, so they got to come back. We were willing to stay there."

mbaird@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Iron Ore Company, United Steelworkers Local 5795

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Troy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    IOCC is just playing games with it's employees again. Their attuide is that we are paying them well, so can treat them as we see fit.
    What IOCC can't understand is that a happy employee is a productive employee. They had a enternal audit of hourly and staff that revealed 87% were treated unfairly.
    Those unhappy employees broke every production record and earned over one billion dollars for IOCC in 2006.
    WHAT would a happy workforce do?

  • Troy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    IOCC is just playing games with it's employees again. Their attuide is that we are paying them well, so can treat them as we see fit.
    What IOCC can't understand is that a happy employee is a productive employee. They had a enternal audit of hourly and staff that revealed 87% were treated unfairly.
    Those unhappy employees broke every production record and earned over one billion dollars for IOCC in 2006.
    WHAT would a happy workforce do?