In a decision that may lead to a strike or lockout early next month, the Grain Services Union says a majority of its members at Viterra have now voted to reject the grain company’s offer for a new contract.
The union reported Friday that a majority of members in its Saskatchewan maintenance and operations bargaining unit voted to reject the Regina firm’s final offer. Maintenance and operations staff voted 57 and 61.5 per cent respectively in opposition to the offer, the GSU said.
Although a majority of GSU members supported the deal at the former AgPro Grain elevators in Alberta and Manitoba, GSU member workers at the company’s Regina head office voted earlier this month to reject it.
The votes also authorize the GSU to call strike action, the union said.
Among the sticking points in talks between the company and union were wage increases and which employees would receive them; hours of work; the use of casual and temporary employees; and group insurance benefits, the union said.
If the company and union can’t reach an agreement, Viterra has said the earliest date for a strike or lockout would be July 2. The GSU has said it wouldn’t strike until July 7 if a deal isn’t reached.
On the issue of wages, Viterra said its offer includes a six per cent compensation payment on signing and annual increases of six, five, five and five per cent beginning Nov. 1, 2008. The increases, however, would be based on an employee’s individual performance.
The GSU has previously said the “rollbacks and takeaways that Viterra has included in its final offer are not acceptable.”
Viterra has previously said it has plans in place to continue operations if some of its staff end up striking or locked out, but added in a recent quarterly financial report that “any labour difficulties would be disruptive to the corporation’s operations and could have an adverse impact on its financial results.”
“GSU’s elected bargaining committees have offered to resume bargaining with Viterra in an effort to resolve this dispute,” the union wrote in a statement Friday. “Viterra’s reply has been less than conciliatory.”
In a release Friday calling for further details on the breakdown of the vote by maintenance and operations staff, Viterra vice-president Colleen Vancha said “it is business as usual.”
The GSU represents about 850 Viterra employees in total. The company, including all subsidiaries, reports a staff of about 4,000 people.