Rio Tinto smelting plant in Kitimat, British Columbia. — CNW Group / Unifor
Approximately 900 Rio Tinto workers at the company’s aluminum smelting facilities in Kitimat, B.C. have gone on strike. The walkout began today at one minute after midnight, according to the Unifor, Canada’s largest union.
Unifor issued a 72-hour strike notice on Wednesday after close to seven weeks of negotiations over proposed changes to workers’ retirement benefits, as well as unresolved grievances failed, according to Reuters.
The company also sent Reuters an email, saying the union refused the company’s proposal to request the intervention of a mediator.
“Rio Tinto has made every effort to reach a mutually beneficial agreement through negotiating with Unifor over the past seven weeks, and will continue to do so,” the company said in the statement.
Unifor claims it has proposed changes to workers’ retirement income and benefit levels – the first in more than a decade, including moving younger workers to defined benefit from defined contribution pension plans, reports the Coast Reporter.
The union also says the negotiations are focused on a backlog of over 300 grievances resulting from the company’s use of contractors and its refusal to hire full-time workers.
“This strike comes down to Rio Tinto’s greed and lack of respect for our hard-working members at the Kitimat smelting facilities,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Our union is fully prepared to defend our members’ rights and protect good jobs in Kitimat now and in the future.”
According to Yahoo Finance, Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy.