Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto Group announced this week that it will begin cutting production at its BC Works aluminium smelter due to an ongoing strike at the plant.
The firm said in a press release that it continues to negotiate with Unifor Local 2301 on a new collective labor agreement at the plant, but to no avail.
As a result, BC Works will reduce to 35 percent of its nameplate capacity of 432 thousand metric tons per annum. Rio Tinto says that is the most it can safely produce with the on-site staff authorized by the BC Labour Relations Board.
“Reducing production will have a significant impact on the business and community, but we are committed to taking the necessary steps to operate safely with a reduced workforce,” said Rio Tinto Aluminium’s managing director Atlantic Operations Samir Cairae.
“We have made every effort to reach a mutually beneficial agreement through negotiating in good faith over the past seven weeks, including proposing an independent mediator which was rejected by Unifor Local 2301.”
“We will continue to look for longer term solutions with the union and work closely with customers and suppliers to minimise disruptions,” concluded Cairae.
Rio Tinto said it has also taken measures to safely operate the Kemano hydro-power facility with reduced staff.
For its part, Local 2301 was critical of the site’s management and its handling of negotiations to date.
“We discussed our options and came to the conclusion that we hadn’t been able to have any meaningful discussion on our key issues having been bogged down with no movement on other issues and we wanted to make our best effort to achieve a contract so we ended up agreeing to a 24 hour extension.”
“After we made our pass and a short visit to our picket line, we expected to continue bargaining through the night, but found out that they had gone home to bed rather than work through and make the most of our time,” continued the union.
The union said that management ultimately met with union representatives the next morning and were asked straightaway to go to mediation.
Local 2301 represents about 900 of the 1,050 employees at the site.