British Columbia

Union members ratify deal ending 2-month Kitimat smelter strike

Members of Unifor Local 2301 have voted in favour of a new agreement with Rio Tinto, ending a two-month long strike at the mining giant's smelter and hydroelectric plant on B.C.'s North Coast.

Rio Tinto says it's working with Unifor on a plan for employees to return to the job

An aerial view of Kitimat, B.C., where Rio Tinto operates its aluminum smelter. Unifor members have voted in favour of a new collective agreement with Rio Tinto, ending a two-month strike. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Members of Unifor Local 2301 have voted in favour of a new agreement with Rio Tinto, ending a two-month long strike at the mining giant's smelter and hydroelectric plant on B.C.'s North Coast.

Rio Tinto announced ratification of the new collective agreement on Monday, saying the parties have also agreed to a  memorandum of understanding on how to work together and the protocol for workers to return to the job on the B.C. Works operation, which includes the Kitimat smelter and the Kemano hydroelectric facility.

"We welcome this vote from employees in support of the new agreement and our shared vision of a strong, sustainable future," B.C. Works general manager Affonso Bizon said in a news release.

"Our focus will now be on ensuring the return of workers and ramp-up of production at the smelter is managed in a safe and controlled manner over coming months, to deliver lasting benefits for our employees, the broader community and our customers."

The deal affects about 950 workers at the smelter and hydroelectric plant.

The strike began at the Kitimat smelter on July 25, after talks broke off when the parties failed to reach agreement on resolving hundreds of outstanding grievances and a new process to resolve disputes.

The previous collective agreement expired earlier this year. 

The smelter has continued to operate, under an essential services order granted by the B.C. Labour Relations Board, at 25 per cent capacity of its normal 432,000-tonne annual capacity.

With files from Canadian Press

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