Manitoba

Flin Flon union members reject HudBay's offer, threaten to strike

Union members, machinists and mechanics in Flin Flon have rejected an offer from one of the most powerful companies in northern Manitoba, HudBay Minerals, and continue threatening to strike.

156 members voted, 96 per cent in favour of rejecting the negotiations

An image from Hudbay Minerals' Flin Flon zinc plant. (Hudbay Minerals)

Union members, machinists and mechanics in Flin Flon have rejected an offer from one of the largest companies in northern Manitoba, HudBay Minerals, and continue threatening to strike.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 1848 has been lobbying for reform.

Monday night, 156 members voted on offers from HudBay. A whopping 96 per cent voted in favour of rejecting the negotiations. 

Rene Beauchamp, union president, said applying for conciliation with HudBay was a long process that ultimately got them nowhere.

"We've told them all our issues. We started in November—basically at an impasse. So in early January we applied for conciliation. The whole process is 82 days, the conciliator came in February, we met and we got nowhere. Last week got nowhere," he said.

Members of the union are trying to change a variety of issues—from wages and pensions, to the company contracting out work externally.

"Health plan, language that could make them change rules, policies as they see fit, could affect benefits," Beauchamp said.

Beauchamp said long-term disability pay was also an issue, as was an advertisement for replacement workers, and a private security firm being brought into Flin Flon.

Beauchamp says a strike is a last resort, and would prefer to come to a collective agreement with HudBay.

He is concerned about the impact a strike would have on the city of Flin Flon.

"Morale is at an all-time low and there's nothing positive coming out of this town. We're concerned about this town as a whole," he said.

Scott Brubacher, director of corporate communications at HudBay, said the company is disappointed with the results of the vote. He says their offer was generous and fair, considering economic realities in Western Canada. 

HudBay had offered a wage increase of 10.9 per cent for certified mechanics, pipefitters and machinists, a ten per cent increase to pension, and requested no language concessions. They had also offered increases to benefits such as vision and paramedical.

"The decision to strike is in the hands of IAM local 1848.  HudBay has a responsibility to our employees, our communities, and our shareholders to manage the business responsibly," said Brubacher in an emailed statement. 

"There hasn't been a labour dispute, I believe, in over 40 years, so it's very significant," said Beauchamp.

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