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Steelworkers at SNOLAB in Sudbury reject ‘final’ contract offer

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United Steelworkers working at the SNOLAB research laboratory in Sudbury voted unanimously this week to reject what it describes as a “final” contract offer from their employer.

Thursday’s vote by members of USW Local 2020-59 in Sudbury “exposes the refusal to date by SNOLAB to negotiate a fair collective agreement that recognizes cost-of-living realities,” the union said in a news release Friday.

Steelworkers who work at SNOLAB facilities, including the underground laboratory deep inside Vale’s Creighton Mine in Greater Sudbury, are part of world-class testing, research and experiments that has achieved recognition globally including a Nobel Prize.

In a news release Friday afternoon, SNOLAB said talks began April 3 with 52 unionized workers and have reached an impasse.

Executive director Jodi Cooley said in the release the facility has been working to cut costs in the last 18 months, a processed that included reducing the number of managers from five to four.

SNOLAB is funded entirely by the federal and provincial governments, the release said, and that funding is fixed and spread out over a six-year term.

“Despite this fixed funding, we value our employees and their contributions. We demonstrate this by offering strong compensation and benefits packages,” Cooley said in the release.

“We are assured that SNOLAB’s compensation is very competitive for the innovation sector.”

Wages for unionized staff range from $43,440 to $81,000, SNOLAB said.

But the Steelworkers said its members only want a fair wage.

“SNOLAB bills itself as a ‘world-class science facility,’ but its actions at the bargaining table show that it isn’t too concerned about the retention of world-class employees,” Tracy Nguyen, a USW staff representative involved in the contract negotiations, is quoted as saying in Friday’s news release.

“SNOLAB has had the opportunity to show our members that their unique knowledge and experience is valued. Instead, not only have they offered wages well below today’s realities, they actually have demanded concessions from workers.”

The release said negotiations are at “a pivotal moment when the employer can choose to return to the bargaining table and offer a fair compensation package so workers don’t have to choose between paying rent or buying groceries.”

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