Below is a joint report put out by all of the USW Locals within the Teck chain after our recent meeting on November 20th.
Teck Chain Update
To: United Steelworkers Members of Locals 480 and 9705 at Teck Resources
From: USW Teck Chain Locals 480 (Trail Operations), 7619 (Highland Valley), 7884 (Fording River), 9346 (Coal Mountain, Elkview), 9705 (Trail Operations)
On November 20th, 2020 leadership from United Steelworker (USW) District 3 and Local Unions at Teck Resources met to discuss shared issues and priorities for labour relations with Teck Resources.
To no one’s surprise the priority for our discussion was the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Under BC’s State of Emergency our members and the work we all do is deemed essential. We understand that; we also understand that essential work does not mean unsafe work. This spring we all worked with Teck to develop industry leading COVID-19 safety protocols that made physical distancing, face masks and sanitation a priority. While there is definitely work to do to ensure management fully implements the plans, maintaining those protocols is the best way to protect our members and allow operations to continue working until a vaccine is available.
Like every day on the job we ask you to stay vigilant about health and safety, and now vigilant about this virus. Members should be mindful about the importance of the Right to Refuse unsafe work, the last line of defense for a worker’s health and safety. If you are not familiar with what this is please ask your safety rep. During this pandemic our Health and Safety Committees have stepped up and continue to deliver at each of our sites. We want to thank them for their work that we all rely on to keep us safe.
As the number of cases rises in BC and more known exposures have impacted our worksites it has raised other issues. We will be reviewing privacy protocols with Teck to ensure any required contact tracing is done well but that the personal privacy of our members is also protected. We can achieve both but require your support and help to make that happens on that worksite.
You keep working and so do we. Despite the pandemic local Unions have continued their work. In particular a two-year bargaining cycle for the Teck chain was kicked off last month when Local 9346 (Elkview) kicked off bargaining. Local 7884 will open bargaining in the coming weeks. Local 7619 will be electing a bargaining committee in the new year and Locals 480 and 9705 will close out bargaining in 2022.
Profits from BC have always fuelled Teck’s growth. Despite the pandemic they continue to be the backbone of the company. This round of bargaining is no different. As always health and safety and a fair wage and benefit package are priorities across all Locals. Autonomous hauling will likely be a significant issue at the bargaining table at all of our mining operations. While Teck has made broad commitments about not displacing any of our members due to autonomous hauling it will be important to secure the training opportunities and contracting-in required to protect our members’ jobs. It is also critical that autonomous hauling meet the health and safety standards our members expect before it is implemented on a wider scale.
One constant each of us pledged was our shared solidarity at the bargaining table. While each of our locals has unique aspects in each of our bargaining, sharing best practices, management tactics and research strengthens our ability to represent our members.
Local leaders also discussed the outcome of the provincial election and their shared priorities for discussion with the BC NDP government. At the top of the agenda is Health and Safety, and ensuring enforcement is a priority for both mining regulators and WCB. The Union will also be pressing to ensure the necessary reforms are made to WCB to ensure injured workers are treated with dignity.
Premier Horgan’s support of mining and industrial jobs was noted as an opportunity to demonstrate the value of our jobs to the province. We are aware of the scrutiny of our industries; we demand no less when it comes to health and safety, and the environment we live, work and play in. We also know that the social contract to use our natural resources requires it. But we also know first hand the impact and value of these family supporting jobs and need to share it with government and community leaders.
In the Community
We are all struggling with the challenges of living in a pandemic. Not one of our communities in the Interior or Kootenays has been spared its impact, and almost all of our families touched in some way or another.
We also know it increases the challenges facing many of our co-workers and neighbors. Social isolation is impacting mental health and addictions. Economic challenges exacerbate affordability issues for too may working families. It’s important at this time to keep doing the good work we’ve always done in our communities. Whether it through United Way or the Steelworker Humanity Fund we continue to support area food banks. Our holiday giving might be happening in different ways but toy and food drives continue and because you are working as Local Union we can keep giving. Keep an eye out for ways you can participate.
Our Union has always known that if we stick together we are a very resilient force. Whether on the job or as neighbors, now we’re just showing it in a physically distant way.
Ron McKenzie, President USW Local 9705
Chris Walker, President USW Local 480