Stress builds in Goderich as salt-mine strike grinds on

The strike at Compass Minerals' Goderich, Ontario mine continues, which started on April 27th. This is likely to affect salt supply and prices throughout the Northeastern US for the coming winter. Furthermore, it may only get worse if the strike does not end soon. Read on to learn more.

Stress builds in Goderich as salt-mine strike grinds on

As the strike at the town's salt mine grinds into its sixth week, the signs of stress in the picturesque lakeside town are everywhere.

by HANK DANISZEWSKI

GODERICH – As the strike at the town’s salt mine grinds into its sixth week, the signs of stress in the picturesque lakeside town are everywhere.

Many front lawns in the town have sprouted election-style lawn signs indicating support for Unifor Local 16-0, which represents the 370 striking workers.

The salt mine, owned by Compass Minerals, is the town’s largest employer.

“Having 360 guys without work has an impact. People aren’t buying homes, cars and appliances. It pinches the community for sure,” said Unifor national representative Glenn Sonier.

The strikers have been off since April 27 and the two sides have not been bargaining for weeks.

Sonier said he reached out to the company in an effort to restart negotiations but said Compass is refusing to budge.

The union’s slogan has been, “It’s not about the money.”

Sonier said the wage offer made by the company is acceptable but he said the strike was sparked by company demands for concessions in benefits and pension and extended shifts with union members working up to 72 hours a week.

The union members are maintaining a picket line, but a court injunction granted to Compass means the strike can only hold up vehicles for a maximum of 12 minutes.

Sonier said Compass has recruited some replacement workers who used to work at a defunct potash mine in New Brunswick to maintain production at the Goderich facility during the strike.

At the picket line workers have erected at large sign listing the names of the 30 replacement workers and the sarcastic message “Welcome to Goderich.”

Sonier said Compass is providing housing and transportation for the replacement workers.

To help maintain morale, Sonier said the union is holding a “community appreciation rally” at Lions Harbour Park on June 28. Unifor national president Jerry Dias is scheduled to be on hand to thank the community for its support.

Sonier said the owner of a mini-golf course offered free play to strikers and their families. In gratitude the striking workers helped the business install a new roof.

Salt mine workers last went out in 2012; that strike was settled in a few weeks.

A Compass official said in a statement: “To ensure that the mine continues producing salt to service our customers’ needs, we made the decision to bring in contractors to assist our staff. To date, through their hard work, we have been able to meet our production goals. Operation of the mine is also necessary to allow us to conduct ongoing maintenance . . . to keep it a safe working environment and to ensure our ongoing capital projects continue during the strike.

“We’re focused on achieving a collective agreement that is good for our employees, their families and the community, focuses on the safety of our employees and represents the current operational environment.”

The Goderich mine, the world’s largest underground operation of its kind, principally produces road salt. U.S.-based Compass is moving from traditional drill-and-blast mining to “continuous mining,” which shears salt off the rock face.

Original article published here.