Bargaining between LafargeHolcim and United Steelworkers Local 816 during the holidays has fallen through over wording around seniority rights, despite an offer to improve benefits and wages from the company. Workers at Texada Quarrying have been locked out since the middle of October.
Before the lockout began, company management tasked workers using a system of 22 classification levels. The company has 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 claimed the company tabled an offer before Christmas that removed the language around work assignment that the union felt was an attack on their seniority, she said.
“It also included, once again, significant improvements in benefits, plus annual cost of living increases to wages for each year of the contract,” said Lewis. “Despite the major concession on work assignment, the Steelworkers have yet to vote on the offer.”
Steelworkers spokesperson Brad West said that while LafargeHolcim management had initially stated they were willing to make the concession, when the parties returned for bargaining, the company’s position had not changed.
“Calling a proposal something different when it does the exact same thing is not a change in position,” said West. “Seniority rights is a long-standing principle that is respected by most companies, including Lafarge up until now.”
West said the union continues to seek a fair contract, and asked that LafargeHolcim “drop its attack on seniority rights, return to the bargaining table and end this lockout of their own employees.”
The union issued a press release on Monday, January 7, saying it was “insulted” by the actions of Texada Quarrying management during the holidays.
According to the statement, management approached the locked-out members and delivered 65 Canada Safeway gift cards, each with a value of $50.
“This dispute has been started and prolonged by management,” stated union spokesperson Earl Graham. “Their attack on their own employees is disgraceful and a token gift card isn’t going to make it right.”
The union stated its members will donate the gift cards to Powell River and Texada food banks to show appreciation for the community support it has received through the ongoing labour dispute.