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Salt mine operator gives striking workers final offer

Shalu Mehta

By Shalu Mehta, The London Free Press

Standing in solidarity and remaining hopeful through a 12 week strike, Unifor members at the world's largest salt mine in Goderich will vote on a final offer from Compass Minerals. The American owned company and the union have been in negotiations since Thursday, July 12. Unifor will vote on the proposed final offer on Monday, July 16. (KATHLEEN SMITH, The London Free Press)

Standing in solidarity and remaining hopeful through a 12 week strike, Unifor members at the world's largest salt mine in Goderich will vote on a final offer from Compass Minerals. The American owned company and the union have been in negotiations since Thursday, July 12. Unifor will vote on the proposed final offer on Monday, July 16. (KATHLEEN SMITH, The London Free Press)

A twelve week strike at the world’s largest underground salt mine in Goderich seems may be near an end after a tentative agreement -- which workers will vote on Monday -- was struck on the weekend.

But Unifor local president Gary Lynch said what the union is calling a tentative deal actually is a final offer from U.S. company Compass Minerals.

“It’s the company’s final proposal,” Lynch said. “The company is not prepared to do any more.”

Tensions between the two groups deepened after the company brought in replacement workers from as far away as New Brunswick to resume work at the mine.

During the past couple weeks of the strike, picketers built a blockade from wooden pallets to stop replacement workers from entering the mine. Compass went to court to have the blockade removed but a new one using tractors from nearby farms was brought in its place.

Talks between the union and Compass Minerals resumed last week, despite Compass saying the company wouldn’t negotiate until replacement workers were allowed back into the mine.

Mayor Kevin Morrison of Goderich said the tentative deal is “good news” after many weeks of picketing.

“The (strike) process had to take place and it has,” Morrison said. “Strikes are never an easy thing, but you have to stand up for your rights and what you believe in.”

Morrison said the Goderich community has shown a lot of support for salt mine workers, erecting signs on their front lawns, wearing Unifor t-shirts and going to community events at the salt mine entrance.

Lynch said he wasn’t able to disclose information about the agreement, but said it’s “for the members to decide now.”

“I’m not about to continue this on if the men don’t believe in it,” Lynch said.

He said the 12-week strike has had a significant impact on salt mine workers, many of whom are “penny pinching” and taking odd jobs to support their families.

Lynch said the effects of the strike can be felt throughout the community as families of workers as well as businesses who profited from them lose out.

“It’s the grocery stores . . . the Canadian Tires, the kids camps that are affected,” Lynch said. “That’s what this is all about . . . It’s all of us, our children, our lives.”

Compass Minerals declined to comment on the agreement but sent out a news release with details late Sunday afternoon.

The release said the agreement includes wage increases, “shifts that allow salt to be produced efficiently and consistently” and no changes to the pension plan among other things. The company also sent out a link (http://compassmineralsbargaining.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Executed-Comprehensive-Offer.pdf) to the full proposal.

Workers will meet at 9 a.m. Monday morning to vote on whether to accept or reject the deal.

Picketers who were at the salt mine on Sunday declined to comment.

shmehta@postmedia.com

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