SUDBURY, Ontario Despite two months of negotiations, FALCONBRIDGE has failed to come to an agreement with its unionized workers regarding a new collective bargaining agreement. Members of the Sudbury Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union Local 598 (CAW) walked off the job at midnight Jan. 31. The strike affects 1,050 workers.
Falconbridge will continue to operate its smelter at about 50% of capacity, reducing nickel production by 2,000 tonnes a month. Copper and cobalt output will also be cut. Without ore from the four Sudbury mines, the smelter must rely largely on feed from the Raglan mine in northern Quebec. Should the strike continue for more than six weeks, output from the Nikkelverk refinery in Norway will drop. Operations at the Falcondo mine in the Dominican Republic are not affected.
The union represents 80% of Falconbridge's production and maintenance workers. They voted 98.5% to reject the company's final offer, citing the contentious issue of contract workers. Members want assurance that they will do the construction and development of the Nickel Rim South project. The company wants to contract out this work, saying that contractors have specialized skills. Falconbridge would employ its unionized workforce for production mining.
The Montcalm mine near Timmins, Ont., is not covered by the collective agreement, and Falconbridge plans to contract out all construction, development and production jobs there.
There are two sides to every argument, and they are ably presented at www.minemill598.com and www.falconbridge.com. In the meantime, both sides have agreed to hold "very preliminary" discussions with an Ontario Ministry of Labour conciliator to see if the parties are close enough on the key issues for formal negotiations to resume.