17 November, 2008
Five hundred Canadian miners at Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. had been on strike for over three months seeking a new collective agreement, one that included a commodity-based bonus scheme. The strike ended last week, 13 November, when members of United Steelworkers Locals 7458, 7689, and 189 voted by 77.5% to ratify a new labour agreement.
Miners and processing plant workers at worksites of PotashCorp in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan are expected to be back in their jobs this week.
The three-year agreement provides minimum 18% wage increases over that period, with some increases higher. Roger Falconer, USW’s Canadian head of strategic campaign, said, “The members are happy to go back to work.” Included in the back-to-work agreement is retroactive pay during the strike, which began on 7 August, a supplemental market bonus of C$5,000, and shift premium increases which start at C$1.35-an-hour.
Workers did not achieve commodity-based bonuses – a central issue being the strike – primarily because of the rapid economic downturn now.
They did receive a C$50 increase to vacation bonuses, as well as return-to-work bonuses following layoffs of C$800 for the first two weeks of a furlough, and C$400-per-week after that.
PotashCorp reported a profit increase of more than 400% in 2007 over 2006. The company is the world’s largest fertilizer enterprise, with the operations that were struck, Cory, Allan, and Patience Lake mines and plants, accounting for 18% of all Canadian potash supply and six percent of the world’s capacity.
USW members took their campaign for a fair labour agreement to New York City and London to persuade industry analysts that they were proposals were justified, and that a prolonged strike would severely hurt the company’s financial ledger.