The union representing Xstrata Plc nickel mine, mill and smelter workers in Canada said talks to avert a Feb. 1 strike will likely resume today for the first time since the union rejected a company offer Jan. 25.
Negotiations have been on hold as Xstrata reviewed the union’s counteroffer over the weekend and delayed the scheduled start of talks earlier today, said Richard Paquin, chief negotiator for the Canadian Auto Workers union that represents 1,027 production workers in Sudbury, Ontario.
“We plan on bargaining right through” to the deadline tomorrow, Paquin said in an interview. “A deal has to be had by midnight” to avert a strike, he said.
A strike at the Sudbury-area mines, which Xstrata obtained when it bought Falconbridge Ltd. for $18 billion in July, would compound a global shortage of nickel, which is used in stainless steel and has more than doubled in price during the past year.
Nickel for immediate delivery rose above $40,000 a metric ton for the first time ever last week in London on concern that the Sudbury workers may walk off the job. About 4 percent of the world’s supply of nickel is processed at Xstrata’s plants in the Sudbury area.
Xstrata spokesman Ian Hamilton declined to comment on the specifics of the talks.
“Our team is working hard toward the deadline,” he said in a telephone interview. “We want to reach an agreement.”
The two sides must resolve differences on the rights of workers to get jobs back at sites they were moved from involuntarily, vacation scheduling and pay, Paquin said.
Xstrata, based in Zug, Switzerland, offered to raise miners’ hourly pay by 60 Canadian cents in the first year of the contract and 20 cents in each of the second and third years. The union wants an hourly increase of $1 in the first year and 75 cents in each of the following two years. Workers on average earn about C$25 an hour.
The union rejected an C$8,000 signing bonus the company offered Jan. 25.
“Instead of bonuses, they would rather see a wage increase,” Paquin said of the miners. Bonuses are “a one-time deal.”
The CAW workers have gone on strike twice since 2000, shutting down production for seven months in 2000 and 2001 and for three weeks in 2004.
“A deal can be done,” Paquin said.