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UMWA ratifies new collective agreement at Coal Mountain, ending strike

date: 
September 29, 2010
For immediate release?: 
 

[SPARWOOD, B.C.] Members of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local Union 7292 voted 79 percent in favor of a new five-year collective agreement the union negotiated with Teck Coal, Inc, covering more than 160 workers at the company’s Coal Mountain mine in Sparwood, B.C. The agreement ends a 54-day strike at the mine.

“We are pleased that we were able to achieve all of our initial bargaining goals in this agreement,” said UMWA International Auditor/Teller (Canada) Bob Burchell, who led the negotiations for the union. “We closed the wage gap that had existed with the company’s other mines in the area, retroactive to Jan.. 1, 2010. We achieved the job security language we were looking for and won increases in our health benefit package.”

After several weeks of no talks between the parties, negotiations began in earnest last Saturday, Sept. 25, with the help of a mediator. By late that night, a tentative agreement had been hammered out that the union leadership took to the membership and recommended approval.

“There is no question that solidarity won this strike,” Burchell said. “As time went on, the company saw us getting stronger, not weaker. Our picket line never wavered, and the members on it continued to grow.

“Add to that the support we received from within the UMWA and from other unions in the area and it became clear to management that they weren’t just taking on 160 guys, they were taking on every local union in the UMWA in Canada and the U.S. as well as union members from across North America,” Burchell said. “Once they understood that, we were able to move pretty quickly to reach a fair and equitable agreement.”

“This is a clear demonstration of the value of labor unity,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “UMWA local unions and individual members from every corner of North America donated money to help the strikers and their families. The United Steelworkers and the Operating Engineers, who represent other Teck miners in the area, stood with us on the picket line.

“This is what ‘union’ means,” Roberts said. “When we stand together, we all win. I commend the members of L.U. 7292 for their courage and their strength. And I thank all those who stood with them in their time of need.”

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