Settlement at Fer & Titane at Havre-St-Pierre - Steelworker solidarity made the difference



    HAVRE ST-PIERRE, QC, Oct. 31 /CNW Telbec/ - On strike since August 31,
the 220 members of United Steelworkers Local 4466 working at the Fer & Titane
mining company at Havre-Saint-Pierre have accepted, by a vote of 89.2%, the
agreement in principle reached by the United Steelworkers (FTQ) and the
representatives of QIT (Rio Tinto). The workers were able to preserve and
improve their pension plan, the main issue in the dispute, and obtained salary
increases in the order of 13.4% over five years. "This historic agreement with
Rio Tinto, a powerful multinational corporation with its head office in
London, is the result of an exceptional position of strength that the
Steelworkers at Havre St-Pierre managed to create. The bonds within this
community will be woven even more tightly. I feel privileged to have been
closely involved in the bargaining by these union members," declared
Daniel Roy, Assistant Director, United Steelworkers (FTQ).
    The solidarity of the Québec union movement was extremely effective. "We
received lots of support from the Steelworker locals on the North Shore, and
from the other locals of Rio Tinto in Québec. Many people told us that our
fight was also their own. We thank them for that. The FTQ and many of its
affiliated unions also became involved. A major international campaign was in
the process of getting underway. With such a strong core at Havre St-Pierre
and a union like ours with strong international roots, Rio Tinto was facing a
real battle. The company seems to have understood that. In any event, it did
negotiate. Things would have been so simple if it had adopted that attitude at
the start of bargaining. I hope that the lesson has been understood," added
Réal Valiquette, Regional Coordinator of the United Steelworkers (FTQ) on the
North Shore.

    Our pension plan is our treasure

    "The "little people" stood up to the big guys. Together, we broke
Rio Tinto's pattern with respect to pension plans, and obtained a real
settlement for our members. In fact, we not only saved our pension plan, we
improved it. It is one of the best in Québec. It's our treasure. Our
predecessors fought for it, going on strike for three months in 1966-and the
plan was agreed to during negotiations for the 1969 collective agreement. We
are determined that the sacrifice of those who came before us will not go in
vain, and that their efforts will benefit future generations. We are also
fighting for those future generations. We want our children to be able to
benefit from the advantages of a good retirement, like us. Mission
accomplished," added Steeve Arsenault, President of United Steelworkers (FTQ)
local 4466.
    We remind the reader that the company wanted to introduce a defined
contribution pension plan for new employees. "The workers agreed to contribute
an average of 2% of their base salary to their pension plan, while preserving
the principle of a defined benefits plan. As far as increased benefits to
pensioners are concerned, the workers won an additional amount of $10 per
month per year of service. That means that for a worker with 30 years of
service, the monthly pension benefit will be $2,700. The Fer et Titane workers
are the only ones within this multinational corporation to have saved their
pension plan. This feat will give a real boost to other groups in future
negotiations," Daniel Roy explained.
    As for salaries, the increases will be 13.4% for a five-year contract.
This brings the average hourly wage to $31.08 by the end of the collective
agreement.
    Life insurance is raised from $45,000 to $60,000. Short-term sickness
benefits are raised from $500 to $650 per week. For long-term disability, the
amount increases from $1,900 to $2,200 per month.
    This ilmenite mine first opened in 1950.




For further information:

For further information: Daniel Roy, United Steelworkers (FTQ), (514)
293-9229; Réal Valiquette, United Steelworkers (FTQ), (418) 962-2041; Steeve
Arsenault, United Steelworkers, local 4466 (FTQ), (418) 538-2772


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