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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald {Newspaper} - 1974-01-11,Lethbridge, Alberta DMrlct SECOND SECTION The Lethbridge Herald Lethbridge, Alberta, Friday, January 11, 1974 Local news Pages 15-28Sparwood miners are mum on agreement memorandum SPARWOOD - You can tunnel yo^ way through West Baldy MounUtn but you sUll won t get the coal miners to talk. Mum’s the wort on the “memorandum of agreement” between Kaiser ResouroesLtd. and striking members of local 7292 of the United Mine Workers of America. They’re voting on it today. The suspense is building at Sparwood. Forty miles north, at Elkford, 602 members of the United Steelworkers of America are watching and waiting. They are striking Fording Coal Ltd., a subsidiary of Cominco. If the Kaiser strike is settled today, the Fording strike will be over Saturday. Well, maybe not Saturday, but soon, thw hope. A tbira union, the Association of Commercial and Technical Employees, 71 members strong, has vacated its offices at Fording’s open pit mine W miles from Elkford. Certified last August, local 1702 seeks its first contract and is striking Fording Coal to get it.    _ Today there are about 1,975 coal mining people on strike in this regiwi. Ttilngs look much the same. Kaiser miners stitl have another cheque coming, tbelr strike being only three days old. But the last cheque from Fording came throu^ Tuesday. Spirits are high at Elkford. But the strike effects are seepiqg in. like cold air in a mine shaft.    ^ , But back to the “memorandum of agreement.” Kaiser and UMWA members hammered out this 5&-page b^ in 48 hours. It contains 24 articles. It is “top secret." Union and company officials said nouiing and will say nothing about it. All you get is a word here and a word there. How many miners will read it? They picked up their copies yesterday, filing quietly and somewhat soberly into the union ball for four separate meetings. About three pages tell the story. Job classifications The three pages are about: what the milters are eami retroactive to Jan. 1, II now: what they'll get t4; what tbey’ll get July 1,1»74; and what they’ll be earning Jan. I, WS. A mine laborer said he is earning |3.95 now and if the agreement is ratified by the union members today be will be earning I5.I0 Jan. 1, 1OT5. That’s tbe bottom of the scale. A continuous mine mraUv «msented, over a couple of beers at the king's Hotel at Ferme, to tell'Tbe Herald he earned M-»» when the five-year contract expired Dec. SI. We learned con^ tinuous miners, working underground with heavy equipment at the Balmer North mine near Natal, will earn $5.80 retroactive to Jan. 1; 16.05 July 1; and 16.50 an hour «i Jan. 1, 1975. The miners will earn this, if they vote to ratify the agreement today. It will end picketing in four-hour shifts day and niibt. There arc about 75 job classificaUons in the memorandum of agreement. A crane operator said he could reach a rate of f6.65 by Jan. 1, 1OT5. Crane operators are tbe elite of the open pit mining corps. If Uie agreement is ratified today their pay rate will be $5.95 an hour with an adjustment to |6.20 in July. And while clouds of cigarette smoke swirled up to form a cloud over striklag miners in tbe unhall here Thursday, UMWA executive members Stuart Johnson of iresidoit, and Ezner EteAnna of t reprei contract article Sparwood, rwood, dis-:be tentative explaining, sentative, went over by article recommending. The press wasn’t invited. The company and union reached one solid accord — nothing on the memorandum of agreement would be given to the press. It is for all hourly - rated production and mamtenance employees of Kaiser Resources for its mining operaticms in the Michel - Natal - Elk Prairie, B.C. area. It is not for office workers, surveyors, assayers, firebosses, janitors, watchmen and securi^ staff and supervisory employees. Mining is hard and miners are tough. They know they come back to work the next day if someone is killed. But, just to be sure, it’s in the agreement. There are clauses on holidays and there are clauses on vacations. If a new job is set up, the agreement says the pay rate will be «) tbe basis of an accord between the company and the union Overtime is not an issue, said a miner at Fer-nie. But overtime has to be defined and the agreement defines it. It is voluntary ‘ One miner said the agreement states Kaiser will contribute on a 90-50 basis with miners on group life and accidental death insurance, dismemberment insurance; and sickness and accident insurance Life insurance is $7,500 and accidental death and dismemberment insurance is the same. There is a new dental plan. If they vote yes today, the mmers will get benefits equal to those in Medical Services Associati«! plans for 80 and 50 per cent coverage. But while UMWA unionists here are potential princes, the Elkford steelworkers are positive paupers. “They haven’t even come a third yet of what we are asking,” Lome Ryder, president of local 7884, USWA, said Thursday afternoon. He says his union is going to stand firm on its demand for a laborers’ base rate of $5 25 Under the old contract, a 29-month accord that expired Dec. 31,1973, laborers at Fording received »3.70. The rate two years ago was $3.20. A haulage operator is now at the middle of the scale at $4.59 and at the top, a dragline operator earns $6. The steelworkers want 32 separate Job classifications, each are 10 cents higher to $8.35 for a dragline operator Their old contract has 10 jobs listed. Company and union are at odds on-the issue. Said Mr. Ryder; “All is pendii^ right now, depending on what happens with Kaiser Friday. If Miser settle Friday, we are going to phone the company (Fording Coal Company) Saturday and ask for a meeting. “We will meet them only on the basis of the settlement with Kaiser. We are not asking the same (as the UMWA) but it will have to be around those figures.” Bargaining ended Dec, 28 at Elkford, a brand new town of 2,200 people now adding a handsome hotel and shopping centre to the mountain grandeur scenery. Strike notices replace burgers Kaiser's coal preparation plant at Michel keeps coking ovens burning despite strike. Some friction apparent, however Few strike pains encountered ELKFORD (Staff) -"We won’t get strike pay for another week,” said a member of the United Steelworkers of America, local 7884, here Thursday. Today 602 members are in their 11th day of a strike against the Fording Coal Company. Miners received their last company pay cheque Jan. 8. Bunkhouses have been vacated by about 250 single miners but otherwise this peaceful, new, mountain scenery town seems to be suffering few strike pains as yet. There is some friction, ■however. Tony Belcher, staff representative of the union, sent a letter Thursday toBC Labor Minister Bill King Mr. Belcher says in his letter “B.C. Hydro was contacted by the local union in an attempt to have a suspension placed on householders’ electric bills. This was refused with the threat that nonpayment would result in disconnection of services. “I can’t believe,” writes Mr. Belcher, “that this government would allow about 360 tax-paying families to have their power cut off in mid-winter in sub-zero weather," The union has taken the position that no one will pay their Hydro bills until the strike is over. He says Columbia Natural Gas has also threatened to cut off services for non-payment Representatives of BC. Hydro and Columbia Natural said Friday in telephone interviews their respective companies would not discontinue services for anybody in Elkford in this cold weather Fred Medley, district manager of B.C. Hydro in Fernie, says the company will do what it can. He realized the financial problems people caught in the strike were having. “We are not going to go in and start cutting everybody off,” he sai(T The company is not going to disconnect people in this cold weather Mr. Medley said the company would deal with each case separately. He had at no time said B.C. Hydro was going to discontinue services. Mr. Medley said B.C. Hydro wanted the bills paid am would consider term payments for families affected by the strike. Ken McLean, vicepresident of Columbia Natural Gas in Cranbrodt, .B.C., said a delegation from Elkford had requested they not be billed until the strike was over. He told them it was against company policy to do that. However, Mr. McLean told the Herald no services would be discontinued to people whose accounts were in good shape before the strike. Columbia will deal with each case separately but would not cut anybody off Stones by D’Arcy Rickard Photos by Bill Groenen in cold weather, he said. In another matter, unionists say “The RCMP, asked by the people of Elkford for two years to provide resident police protection, are now seeing fit to accompany Comin-co’s (Fording) security forces in patrolling what Cominco (Fording) refers to as its property. This property according to the Cranbrook assessor’s office, says the unionists, in fact belongs to Kaiser Resources or Crowsnest Industries. Snow rig operators have been asked to take their snow recreation vehicles off the area by Fording security forces. ELKFORD (Staff) -Olympia 2 is the name of a former restaurant here. It’s a very bu«y place now but they dwi’t serve hamburgers any more. Olympia 2, the sign says, but it’s a union hall. They don’t serve burgers, they serve strike notices. Elkford is an Instant community with many permanent and mobile homes spotting the snowy mountainside. Its lifeblood comes from the Fording Coal Company, a subsidiary of Cominco. Inside the hall can be seen members of local 1702 of the Association of Commercial and Technical Employees. Seventy-five members of this union, granted certification last August, went on strike Thursday against Fording Coal Ltd. The association IS seeking its first contract. President John McGregor said the union went on strike after a meeting with the company showed nothing new was being offered. At the same time, 602 members of the United Steelworkers of America are in the lOth day of a strike against Fording. Lome Ryder, president of local 7884, USWA, has an office in Olympia 2. Fording negotiator is John Giovennetto of Trail. A mediator was on the sc«ne-from Dec. 10 to Dec. 18 and then after 92.6 per cent of 478 voting miners said “strike” he came back Dec. 27 and 28. Says the union president. “They laid this package on us. They told us it is something more. But the only way the bargaining committee could see it would be — we would have to guarantee them we would go back to our membership and tell them we recommend it. Under those terms, there was just no way ” The steelworkers turned the proposal down Dec 20 and 21, There were two more meetings with the mediator “He met with the union on Dec 27 and asked our committee if we were still as strong on our demands as we were when he left on Dec 18,” says Mr. Ryder, Union demands were still as strong. The mediator met with Fording officials Dec. 28 and called the union back m at 4 p.m. on that day. “That IS when he told us, as far as be was concerned there was no change and he LORNE RYDER would go back to Vancouver and make a report as soon as possible to the minister,” says Mr. Ryder B.C Labor Minister Bill King sent the mediator’s report and a letter to the union saying as of Jan 2 the strike was legal. If the Kaiser strike is settled today. Mr Ryder hopes it will pave the way to a “meeting of good faith” between Fording and the steelworkers Meanwhile, they are wallpapering the walls of the old Olympia 2, (Olympia 1 IS doing a thriving business at Sparwood), and it will be the scene of dancing when the strike is finally settled Steelworkers perform a (our-hour shift 0» picket duty near a pot-belly itove Evidence of union strife between United Steelworkers of America and "scabs” at Elkford ;