Noranda settles Horne smelter strike

Employees at Noranda Inc.'s (TSX:NRD)Horne smelter in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., have voted to end a strike that has been running nearly a year, the company said Wednesday.

The 550 members of Le syndicat des travailleurs de la Mine Noranda narrowly approved a contract that included a 10 per cent wage increase over three years, benefit increases and changes that will allow the smelter to become more efficient.

The new agreement "will help to assure the mid-to-long-term viability of the smelter," said Claude Ferron, vice-president and general manager at Horne.

The strike, which began last June 18, cost Noranda an estimated $25 million pre-tax in 2002 and $10 million in the first quarter this year.

Job reductions appeared to be a key issue. As recently as February, Noranda said it told the union that it needed to cut 125 positions, reducing the workforce to 425, as part of its cost reductions.

There was no mention of the job cuts in Wednesday's announcement of the union vote.