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PotashCorp, union agree to meet

(Resource News International) — Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and the union representing striking workers at three of the company’s mines have agreed to resume bargaining, according to a company spokesperson.

Nearly 490 workers have been on strike since Aug. 7 when discussions regarding contract renegotiation broke off. The workers are employed at PotashCorp’s Allan, Cory and Patience Lake mines in Saskatchewan and are responsible for underground mining operations, as well as milling and shipping activities on the surface. They are represented by the United Steelworkers’ (USW) locals 7689, 7458 and 189.

The union wants pay increases for its members as well as a profit-sharing scheme including a bonus tied to commodity prices. The proposed bonus has been a sticking point between the USW and PotashCorp.

“The union has put in a request to come back to the bargaining table, and we have certainly agreed to come back,” said Rhonda Speiss, public relations manager for PotashCorp, on Friday. However, she said, the company remains unprepared to negotiate on the commodity price-based bonus program proposed by the union.

Speiss said a $5,000-per-year bonus has already been offered, and the union members are already part of a short-term incentive bonus system.

While the two sides have agreed to meet, Speiss didn’t have a firm timeline as to when any actual negotiations would take place.

In the meantime, production continues at a reduced capacity at the Allan facility, the largest of the three mines affected by the strike. Potash mining and milling operations started up again Aug. 25 using managerial staff brought in from the other two facilities.

According to PotashCorp, contingency plans continue to be evaluated for the Cory and Patience Lake facilities, although production only occurs at the latter location from October through May.

The three mines together account for roughly 30 per cent of the company’s potash production, according to company data.

Union officials were not available for comment.

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