United Steelworkers (USW) at steel and mining company ArcelorMittal’s operations in Fermont and Port-Cartier, Quebec, have agreed to a four year collective agreement with the company that includes maintaining and improving the employees’ defined benefit pension plan.
The deal averts a strike, which the 2,000-worker strong union overwhelmingly voted for last week after it rejected a contract offer from the company that required a two-tier pension concession by the employees. However, ArcelorMittal dropped its two-tier pension demand, and a tentative deal was then agreed upon.
Other issues of contention that had separated the two sides included union demands that contracted-out positions be returned as unionized jobs, and the resolution of discrepancies in working conditions and standards between workers at ArcelorMittal’s Mont-Wright mine and its Fire Lake mine.
The agreement includes annual wage increases ranging from 2.2% to 3%, an increase in basic pension benefits, and restrictions on subcontracting that will bring back unionized jobs. Improvements will also be made to health benefit plans, and to non-monetary clauses. Office employees will return to a 40-hour work week, which reversed a reduction in hours last year.
“It’s an excellent contract,” said Nicolas Lapierre, Steelworkers Area Coordinator for Quebec’s North Shore region in a statement. “Thanks to the mobilization and determination of our members, they have ensured younger workers will benefit from the same pension plan that previous generations fought for and, in fact, they have improved the plan for all current and retired workers.”
The deal also provides ArcelorMittal’s Fire Lake Mine workers with contract parity with their counterparts at the company’s MontWright mine. Previously, the wage gap between workers at the two mines was as high as $8 an hour.
“There are clear improvements and no concessions,” said Lapierre. “This was made possible by very strong mobilizing and solidarity on the workers’ part.”
By Michael Katz