Rio Tinto, Unifor resume negotiations to resolve month-long Kitimat smelter strike

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Rio Tinto and the union resumed negotiations to reach a consensus about a collective agreement and resolve the Kitimat aluminum smelter strike which is now in its fifth week.

The decision to return to the table came after a meeting between top officials from Rio Tinto and Unifor Local 2301 president Martin Mcllwrath in Vancouver on Aug. 23.

“Both parties had an open and frank discussion about the long-term changes needed for our smelter to be a sustainable and respectful workplace for all,” said Unifor and Rio Tinto in a joint statement on Aug. 24.

The strike between Rio Tinto and its 950 unionized employees represented by Unifor Local 2301 began July 25, after negotiations failed between both parties to reach a collective agreement on matters of employee benefits and use of contractors among others issues. After the strike began, Rio Tinto reduced its aluminum production at the Kitimat smelter to 25 percent of its normal 432,000 tonne annual capacity.

Both parties said in the joint statement that moving forward their conversations will tackle outstanding issues.

“If successful, Rio Tinto and Unifor Local 2301 will develop a plan to return to work that will guide what needs to be done from the time an agreement is reached until we ramp up to full production with all pots back in operation,” they said in the statement.

Both sides also said the importance of a “significant reset and cultural change based on mutual trust is recognized as paramount.”

“We all want to build an environment where the entire workforce feels listened to, cared for an reflect proudly on their workplace and the contribution they make.”

Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard

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