'Unless they bring a tank down here, I ain't going anywhere,' vows striking miner

A local union leader has vowed that a barricade will remain up at the Compass Minerals salt mine in Goderich, Ont., until contract negotiations resume.

Barricade erected outside salt mine in Goderich, with miners strike now in 10th week

An enforcement officer with the Ministry of the Attorney General reads striking workers a court order outlining the company's position that the barricade is illegal. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

A local union leader has vowed that a barricade will remain up at the Compass Minerals salt mine in Goderich, Ont., until contract negotiations resume. 

"Nobody is coming through until we get back to the table as far as I can see," said Gary Lynch, president of Unifor Local 16-0. "Unless they bring a tank down here, I ain't going anywhere," 

More than 350 unionized workers at the mine have been on strike for about 10 weeks.

The picket line transformed into a barricade Wednesday night, because the striking workers said they were frustrated by a lack of progress with management. 

"They're going by in their vehicles laughing at us because they have a contingency of workers doing our work. There's no reason to get back to the table," said Lynch.
Gary Lynch, president of Unifor Local 16-0, maintains money is not the central issue in this strike. He says the company wants employees to work 12 hour shifts. (Paula Duhatschek/ CBC News)

The salt mine, located hundreds of metres beneath Lake Huron, supplies de-icing salt to cities and other customers across North America.

Replacement workers have kept the mine operating since the strike began on April 27. 

The barricade, made up of wooden pallets, is now blocking the entrance to the mine. Replacement workers who were on shift Wednesday remain inside. Other replacement workers and management are blocked from entering the site.

Lynch maintains that replacement workers who were on shift are free to leave.

Company responds

In a statement to CBC News, Compass Minerals called the job action illegal. 

"The current blockade by the Union and its supporters violates an existing Court Order restricting picketing activity at the site. We are disappointed that the Union is not respecting the Court Order and that our employees would put their safety and the safety of our mine at risk," according the the statement.

The company added that it "is in the process of undertaking enforcement measures to aid in the continued operation of the mine and servicing of our valued customers."

About 60 people stood watch early Thursday morning, including Marg Phillips.

Her father worked at the mine as does her husband, Robert. Phillip's four brothers have also been employed at the mine.
Marg Phillips' family has worked at the mine for two generations. (Paula Duhatschek/ CBC News)

"We want to be treated fairly and not have things taken away from us that our forefathers went out for," said Phillips. "It's very disappointing and disheartening." 

The workers, including miners and electricians, have been trying to negotiate a new contract. The union said the top issues are job security and benefits.

The company has outlined a framework for a settlement on its website. It includes a $10,000 signing bonus along with wage increases.

However, union representatives say money isn't the issue. Instead, their concerns stem from a push from management to get workers to try 12-hour shifts.

Lynch points to a turnover in management in the past few years at the root of the dispute.

"This labour dispute has a different taste in our mouth," said Lynch. "Just a lot of change and different ideas coming from an American-owned company which just doesn't seem to line up with the Employment Standards Act and other ways of doing things in Canada."​