Unifor Local 2301 — the union for the Rio Tinto workers at the Kitimat aluminum smelter and power operations in Kemano — has served 72 hours strike notice, clearing the way for a work stoppage starting July 24 at 12:01 a.m.
“Unfortunately, based on the employer’s lack of responses and unwillingness to address our issues around contractors, temporary employee usage, pensions, retiree benefits and job security, we have been left no choice but to serve 72 hours strike notice,” Unifor Local 2301 stated this afternoon.
Contractors on site have been asked by Rio Tinto to cross the picket line if necessary, says Unifor but it says it has reached out to the various unions which represent some of the contractors on-site and confirmed that, while a legal picket is in place, contractors will not allow their union members to cross.
Rio Tinto, as in past labour disputes, is seeking an order from the B.C. Labour Relations Board that its employees working at its power generating facilities be declared as essential workers.
But this time Unifor is saying the company wants to expand the essential services classification into other areas of its operations.
Unifor Local 2301 says it will provide more information in the days ahead.
One matter in dispute between Unifor and Rio Tinto is the number of contract employees and temporary workers at the smelter operations. The union says the company is unfair and unsafe in having contractors perform union workers’ work and that refusing to hire full-time workers leads to an overreliance on temporary workers.
The union is also seeking better retirement security for younger workers.
Unifor Local 2301 represents around 900 workers at Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelting plant in Kitimat and power operations facility in Kemano.