Salt mining workers in Pugwash reject latest contract offer

Salt is seen stockpiled in Halifax. Unionized workers at a salt mine in Pugwash have rejected the company's latest contract offer. (Paul Poirier/CBC - image credit)
Salt is seen stockpiled in Halifax. Unionized workers at a salt mine in Pugwash have rejected the company's latest contract offer. (Paul Poirier/CBC - image credit)

Workers at a salt mining operation in Pugwash, N.S., have overwhelmingly rejected the company's latest contract offer, according to union officials.

A vote was held Thursday night.

"They want to change some of the protections that have been in place for a long, long time," said Mark Shaffer, president of Unifor Local 823. "That would affect hours of work and layoff provisions."

About 150 people normally work at the mine, although most of them are currently off while some repairs take place. They are due to go back Monday.

The workers have been without a contract since October 2020.

Union asking for further negotiations

The operation used to be owned by K+S of Germany. It was sold to Stone Canyon, an American corporation. The sale was finalized in April.

In July, Sheffar said there was an unsuccessful round of conciliation.

"They previously always had a labour relations person on their side, but they've decided to go with a legal team," said Sheffar.

"It's definitely been challenging."

Sheffar said after conciliation talks broke down, the company decided to stockpile salt in both P.E.I. and Halifax. The union considered the move an attempt to "undermine negotiations," he said.

Sheffar said he contacted plant managers to tell them about Thursday's vote and ask for a new round of negotiations.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the company said it was disappointed by the outcome of the vote.

It went on to say that its latest offer included wage increases for each year of a three-year agreement, a signing bonus, updates to health-care benefits and increases to long-term disability payments.

The company also said it is willing to continue meeting to try to come to an agreement.

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