After several months of negotiations, Peace River Coal (PRC) employees have accepted a new three-year contract that raises wages and improves on many existing benefits.
â€œIt was a long process, but it turned out very well,â€ said International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) member rep Mike Spiruda. â€œThere was overwhelming support from the membership.â€
Out of 262 ballots, 208 workers voted yes while 54 voted no, for an approval rate of 79 per cent. It’s also a high turnout among the roughly 300 employees at PRC’s Trend mine. The new agreement will be retroactive to last June 1, when the previous contract expired.
Pay raises for workers were anywhere from 9 to 40 per cent. All certified journeyman tradespeople will now earn $42 per hour, up from $37.20 per hour. Non-certified trades workers are getting a 9.5 per cent wage increase, and can apply for an advanced operators wage, which is the same as a certified trade wage.
Apprentice rates for each of the first five years also jumped by 5 per cent â€“ a first-year apprentice will now earn 65 per cent of the journeyman rate, while fifth-year apprentice will receive 95 per cent of the full rate.
Pension contributions and vacation entitlements will now be based on a worker’s percentage of gross yearly earnings or their hours, whichever is greater. That means overtime hours now count towards a worker’s pension and vacation amounts.
All overtime is now automatically paid at double-time, eliminating a previous requirement that two consecutive overtime shifts had to be worked before an employee was paid at double-time.
There’s also now an official overtime callout list, put in place to ensure mine employees are given a chance to work the extra hours before sub-contractors are brought in. Employees are also assured that their seniority will carry over when they transfer to a different shift.
Bereavement leave will now be three paid days per entitlement, i.e. per death in the family, and all workers will now be given five unpaid days off per year for family responsibility leave.
The grievance process has also been shortened, with an assurance now in the contract that a worker will receive a response to their complaint within 21 days, down from the previous limit of 61 days.
The bargaining team behind the new contract includes four IUOE reps drawn from workers in various departments at the mine.