Nfld. & Labrador

Steelworkers vote in favour of strike mandate in Labrador City

Workers with the United Steelworkers Local 5795 voted 99.6 per cent in favour of a strike mandate.

A whopping 99.6 per cent of workers voted in favour

The United Steelworkers Local 5795 has voted in favour of a strike mandate, with a resounding 99.6 per cent of members in support. (CBC)

Steelworkers in Labrador City have decided to head for the picket line this month, with 99.6 per cent voting in favour of a strike mandate.

The United Steelworkers Union Local 5795 voted over two days starting on Monday, with the final vote being tallied late Tuesday night.

"I was expecting it to be pretty high, but I'm glad to see our membership is 99.6 per cent behind our negotiating committee," said union president Ron Thomas.

"It's a strong message that they are sending to the company."

The union held a strike vote after bargaining went south with the Iron Ore Company of Canada.

Ron Thomas says the vote would have likely been unanimous if not for a few spoiled ballots. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Thomas said the company wants to introduce a two-tiered pension system that would see new employees receive one-third the value of the current pension plan.

He also stated changes to sick leave as a cause for striking, saying the company wants workers to make up for time lost to illness by not receiving extra pay for overtime.

Calls to the Iron Ore Company of Canada's media relations line were not answered on Tuesday night.

Despite the resounding vote, the workers won't be walking out the door just yet. The conciliator will send a report to the provincial government to be signed. If that happens, the workers will strike 15 days later.

More than 90 percent of the union's 1400 members showed up to vote, despite many being involved with a snowmobile race across Labrador or being on vacation, Thomas said.

When asked if the workers are prepared for the long haul, Thomas said you only need to look at the percentage that voted for a strike.

"According to the percentages I got back tonight, it goes to show they are fully supportive of the negotiating team."

With files from Geoff Bartlett