The North Star


“It’s the tool we have”

Workers at B.C. Gibraltar mine ready to keep fighting after signing of new contract

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Five hundred and fifty workers at Gibraltar Mine, Canada’s second largest open-pit copper mine, have ended an 18-day strike and ratified a new three-year collective agreement. The new deal includes a 13% wage increase over three years, the creation of a women’s advocate position, and changes to the language of the agreement adding fairness and transparency to drug testing and discipline processes.

North Star spoke to workers on the picket lines at the mine near Williams Lake, British Columbia, as voting on the deal recommended by the bargaining committee was ongoing. Workers expressed frustration with the last two collective agreements, where wages didn't keep pace with inflation.

“It’s about the money,” said Tom Cavanagh, who has worked on machine maintenance at the Gibraltar mine since 2013. “They’re making record profits. The price of copper hit US$5 per pound this year. We keep hearing about these records.”

Taseko, the company that owns the Gibraltar mine, posted record revenue in 2023 on the extraction of 122.6 million pounds of copper.

The workers repeatedly mentioned struggling with the high cost of living and the difficult conditions of their work, which includes 12-hour shifts and night shift rotations to keep the mine running 24 hours a day.

“I work a 12-hour shift and have to drive 100 kilometres to work and back,” said Cavanagh. “I’m gone for 15 hours.”

The deal was ratified with 61% of workers voting in favour. Many workers that spoke with North Star expressed a determination to get the 15% wage increase that the bargaining committee was mandated with at the beginning of the strike. With the vote ongoing, the slogan “15% or No” was chalked onto walls at the picket lines.

In a phone interview after the announcement of the deal, Cavanagh expressed frustration with the 13% wage increase, while anticipating more struggle ahead.

“It’s good we got through this experience,” he said. “Most of these guys have never been through a strike before.”

He expects future negotiations could be more difficult, as Taseko is leveraging profits from the Gibraltar mine to open a second copper mine in Arizona in 2025 which could double its production of the mineral. With the company in a stronger position, Cavanagh expects strikes may be the only way to win gains for workers in the future:

“It’s the tool we have. I wish there were another way, but withholding our labour seems to be what works.”

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