UPDATE: Striking Goderich Miners Set Up Blockade

Members of Unifor 16-O block the road leading to the salt mine in Goderich. Members have been on strike since April 27th. (Photo by Bob Montgomery)

As the strike at the Goderich salt mine moves into its third month, unionized workers are now blocking the road used by replacement workers.

The miners, who are represented by Unifor Local 16-O, blocked access to the road used during shift change on Wednesday.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias says the striking miners are frustrated by the Compass Minerals’ continued use of replacement workers.  He adds the company has contracted Vic Progressive Drilling to fly in replacement workers from New Brunswick, in an effort to weaken the union’s position.

“Crossing a picket line is shameful behaviour that cannot be tolerated,” says Dias in a news release. “No job is worth stealing food from another worker’s family.”

Dias says the union is continuing to fight against a long list of concessions including mandatory overtime, reducing benefits, and weakening the contracting-out provisions in the collective agreement.

“I’ve been to the picket line and I’ve spoken with miners on this picket line. I know that they have an iron-clad resolve,” said Dias. “Goderich miners have the full backing of our entire union.”

Unifor Local 16-O represents 348 miners in production, shipping, and maintenance at the Compass Minerals mine in Goderich. They have been on strike since April 27.

Compass Minerals has sent a letter through a communications firm, stating its position at this point.

OPEN LETTER TO THE GODERICH COMMUNITY

FROM COMPASS MINERALS

Later today members of Unifor and the community will gather at a rally in support of Unifor Local 16-0, the union that represents our hourly workers at the Goderich Mine. Compass Minerals is the largest employer in Goderich and our employees have been on strike for almost nine weeks.

We would like our employees back to work.

We want them working at a mine that is well-positioned into the future so that we are able to maintain the jobs that are there. In order to do this, we modernized our production processes, switching to a continuous mining model that improves efficiency, increases our competitiveness in the market and does so with an eye toward continually improving the health and safety of our workers.

We also want to reduce the ebbs and flows of production that leads to layoffs and recalls, and the inconsistencies of work that sometimes happens.

This means finding shifts that allow for continuous production and assigning work so our employees’ strengths are used.

This means ensuring that our collective bargaining agreement aligns with this operating model.

We believe this misalignment of the current collective bargaining agreement and our operating model is what is at the heart of the current impasse.

On April 27, we proposed a framework for settlement that addressed all of the outstanding issues in bargaining, provided wage increases and benefit improvements, all in an effort to avoid a strike.

This framework also:

· Focused on the SAFETY of our employees and operations,

· Increased operating time and improved productivity,

· Recognized the important role our employees play within Compass Minerals and the important role Compass Minerals plays in the Goderich community, and

· Represented the current environment in which the company operates (a continuous process instead of the previous batch-driven process).

Unfortunately, the union’s bargaining committee abruptly left negotiations and took their members out on strike. That is where we remain today with no negotiations dates in sight.

We continue to conduct the ongoing maintenance required to keep the facility safe, continue with our capital projects and work to ensure that the business remains operating and viable. This means continuing to produce salt to fill long-term orders for our valued customers – orders that will help ensure winter roads across North America are safe. We have used contractors to help our employees do all this. Given the competitive market and our commitment to our customers, we had little choice but to continue with operations.

We remain optimistic that we will achieve a negotiated collective agreement that reflects the important role our employees play in the community and aligns with our operational requirements and helps ensure that we can continue to operate successfully in Goderich.

The latest information on Compass Minerals’ collective bargaining can be found at compassmineralsbargaining.ca.

*with files from Steve Sabourin