Steelworkers claim Walter Energy violated Labour Relations Code
Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo
TUMBLER RIDGE – The United Steelworkers, Local 1-424 (USW) allege that Walter Energy was in violation of BC Labour laws in its handling of the closure of the Wolverine mine.
In mid-April workers at the mine arrived by bus to the work site only to find the gates shuttered. Mine managers escorted workers to a boardroom were they were told their employment had been temporarily suspended, along with any further mining operations.
The USW filed an application with the Labour Relation Board on May 9, 2014 alleging that Walter Energy should have advised the Union of their plans to close the Wolverine mine and work with the union on an adjustment plan, as is required under Section 54 of the BC labour Relation Code, which would require the company give 60 days notice to the union.
Walter Energy has responded to the union’s application, and the union is currently working on their response.
In addition, the USW claims that a $500 working in the north allowance also be restored to it’s workers. That claim will go before arbitration on July 7.
“The way Walter Energy dealt with the closure is disgusting. Over the years we have deal with many closures and unfortunately some act the way Walter Energy has; but most deal with employees in a respectful manner,” USW, local 1-424 president Frank Everitt wrote to his members.
“Over the past several we have met with Walter Energy representatives several times, and what has become clear to us is that Walter Energy is not going to live up to their responsibilities under the terms of the collective agreement or their responsibilities under any provincial regulation.”
The union submitted, via its lawyers, that it hoped to use May 28 and 29 to arbitrate this matter with Walter Energy. The company responded that it would not be available to negotiate on these dates.
The union has also filed grievances on behalf of members who claim they have not been paid their floater holiday properly.
“The company has prorated this payment which resulted in everyone receiving 8 hours pay for the two floater holidays,” Everitt wrote. “This is wrong everyone should have been paid 24 hours pay which is equivalent to two days pay.”
In addition, several other grievances have been filled pertaining to members who believe they should have been recalled to work on what has been called a Skeleton Crew.
“We had many discussions with the company on this issue but unfortunately issues with the Seniority list being incorrect as well as the skills profile the company has given to us being incorrect,” Everitt said.
Individual grievances with union members who believe they were suspended or discharged without just cause will also be brought forward in the coming weeks.