Employees at the Highland Valley Copper mine near Logan Lake have voted in favour of a five-year contract with employer Teck Resources.
The vote, involving more than 1,000 members of the United Steelworkers Local 7619, was held this past week at the Logan Lake Recreational Centre.
Employees had been without a new contract since Sept. 30, 2021.
Workers voted on a settlement agreement following mediated talks held last weekend.
The union had issued 72-hour strike notice on Jan. 12. It followed 39 days of collective bargaining and mediation began in late November, culminating in talks around the clock with Teck, which owns the mine, and mediators Vince Ready and Corinn Bell.
Teck had proposed a wage increase of two per cent over five years, plus signing bonuses of $3,000 per year over the five-year agreement. The company argued its wages, benefits and pension are better than other mines within British Columbia and the industry. The union, however, sought a three per cent wage increase per year and pointed to increases in the cost of living and employer profits.
Union members voted on the mediators’ recommendations, which included a five-year deal that contained a two per cent per year wage increase and a $20,000 signing bonus to be payable to all active union members, including employees on leave and those who retired between Oct. 1, 2021, and the date of ratification. The lump sum would come no later than 30 days after the ratification date.
Highland Valley produces copper and molybdenum concentrates. Once processed, the metal concentrates are exported overseas, where the majority is sold under long-term sales contracts to smelters.
Copper production in 2021 was predicted to be between 128,000 and 133,000 tonnes, while annual copper production from 2022 to 2024 is expected to be between 135,000 and 165,000 tonnes per year.
Highland Valley Copper is located near Logan Lake, which is about an hour southwest of Kamloops. Many Kamloops residents work at the mine and commute.