Workers at Texada Quarrying on Texada Island in British Columbia, Canada, have been locked out since the middle of October, reported the Powell River Peak. Bargaining between LafargeHolcim and United Steelworkers Local 816 has fallen through over wording around seniority rights, despite an offer to improve benefits and wages from the company.
Before the lockout began, company management tasked workers using a system of 22 classification levels. The company stated it wants to have more flexibility by using a system with fewer levels. The union, however, viewed this as an attack on hard-fought seniority rights.
In an effort to bring the workers back, LafargeHolcim communications director Jennifer Lewis said the company tabled an offer before Christmas that removed the language around work assignment that the union felt was an attack on their seniority.
“It also included, once again, significant improvements in benefits, plus annual cost of living increases to wages for each year of the contract,” Lewis told the paper. “Despite the major concession on work assignment, the Steelworkers have yet to vote on the offer.”
USW Local 816 members employed at the Texada Quarrying Ltd. limestone mine are calling out Lafarge management for what they called "insulting actions" over the Christmas holiday, the organization said in a release.
"On Christmas Eve, Andre Balfe, general manager of Texada Quarrying Ltd., approached USW members whom he has locked out of employment and delivered 65 gift cards for $50 each to Safeway. The actions of Lafarge management are insulting and a slap in the face to their own employees. This dispute has been started and prolonged by management. Their attack on their own employees is disgraceful and a token gift card isn’t going to make it right,” said Earl Graham, USW staff representative.
"USW Local 816 is seeking a fair and balanced contract that ensures the dignity and respect of every employee," the organization said in a release. "Respect for seniority is a long-standing principle that most companies respect, including Lafarge until now. The union and management had recently returned to the bargaining table and made progress, but management reneged and talks fell apart.
"Steelworkers and their families are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support they have received from other unions, local businesses and the community. To show their appreciation for the community’s support, members of USW Local 816 have decided to donate the Safeway gift cards to local food banks on Texada Island and Powell River," concluded the union.
Limestone mining on Texada dates back to 1918. The mine in question is the oldest active mine in the province, according to CHEK News.