Way back on January 18, in a previous editorial, we made a call to LafargeHolcim to end the lockout of approximately 70 United Steelworkers Local 816 union workers at the company’s Texada Island rock quarry.
Nearly two months later, the workers finally have a deal that they are able to live with. In a vote that was split almost down the middle, the union voted 34 in favour and 33 against a new deal that maintains the workers’ seniority rights with the company, in addition to a modest pay and benefit increase.
That is the least they deserve after being locked out for five months, including through the Christmas holidays, and having to endure the kind of financial uncertainty that no workers should ever have to go through.
While it will be business as usual for the company once the union workers are finally back at the job, it won’t be the same for the workers for quite some time and the tension in the air will undoubtably be thick.
Lockouts of this length and intensity are not soon forgotten by the steelworkers. Despite having a new settlement in place, it will take a lot of reconciliation and hard work by LafargeHolcim before company management will be able to re-establish any kind of civil working relationship with its union employees.
LafargeHolcim may have its union workers back under a new contract, but in stalling the proceedings for so long and insisting on taking away seniority rights for nearly 20 weeks of bitter negotiations, the company may have spelled out a dire future for its Texada quarry operation.
Everyone knows that any operation succeeds on the backs of its employees, and unless those workers are confident the company they work for actually has their backs, success can be very tough to come by.
Will the quarry recover from the lengthy lockout that has now marred it reputation? Perhaps some day. Until then, LafargeHolcim definitely has some catching up to do, not just in its quarry’s production, but in mending the crucial relationship with the ones it needs the most.
The steelworkers stuck it out and fought the good fight, with strong support from the communities of Texada and Powell River, but for the sake of themselves and their families, let’s hope they can soon find peace again in the workplace.
Jason Schreurs, publisher/editor