Nfld. & Labrador

IOC broadens early retirement offer without union consult

The Iron Ore Company of Canada has reached out directly to hundreds of workers in yet another bid to trim the workforce at its operations in Labrador City and Quebec.

Company's approach symbolic of tense relations at Labrador mine, says union leader

Unionized workers with the Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador and Quebec have received yet another early retirement offer from the company as part of its bid to reduce costs. (CBC)

The Iron Ore Company of Canada has reached out directly to hundreds of workers in yet another bid to trim the workforce at its operations in Labrador City and Quebec.

Late last week, workers 55 years-of-age and older with at least two years of seniority with the company received letters, offering them a $25,000 cash incentive and a reduced pension if they were to take early retirement, said Ron Thomas, president of Local 5795 of the United Steelworkers.

The union was not notified of this latest attempt by company to cost cuts.

"It doesn't surprise me because we have a very poor relationship with this company," Thomas said.

This is the second early retirement offer from the union in the last month.

In late January, some 145 workers in Labrador City and Sept-Isle, Que. were offered early retirement packages, but it's believed less than two dozen workers accepted the offer.

The criteria for that initial offer was 30 or more years of service, or 62 years-of-age and older with at least 10 years of service. This offer also included a $25,000 cash incentive.

Earlier this month, workers voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposed wage freeze that would have seen workers give up a four per cent increase due to kick in on March 1.

'Significantly reduced pension'

IOC is majority owned by Rio Tinto, the world's second largest iron ore miner.

The company, which employs roughly 2,500 workers, is cutting costs because of slumping prices for iron ore.

IOC operates a mine, concentrator and a pellet plant in Labrador City, port facilities in Sept-Îles, Que., and a 418 kilometre railroad that links the mine to the port.

They don't want anything to do with the union. It makes you wonder if this company's whole plan is to get rid of the union.- Ron Thomas

Thomas estimates that roughly 25 per cent of the workforce could be eligible for this latest offer, which he described as a "significantly reduced pension."

Those who accept would have to retire on April 1, Thomas explained.

"You'll probably get about half of what you would get if you got your 30 years in or if you are 62 years-of-age," he said.

Thomas reiterated his stance that the company should look elsewhere for savings, and again took aim at the use of contractors.

"It seems they have an open book for contractors to come in and do a job which costs this company four times the amount that it would cost our own members," he said.

As for union-company relations, Thomas said, "They don't want anything to do with the union. It makes you wonder if this company's whole plan is to get rid of the union."

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