Strike looms at Xstrata's Kidd smelter operations

Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:08pm EDT
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Unionized workers at Xstrata's Kidd metallurgical operations in northern Ontario looked set to strike after contract talks broke off on Monday, the union official overseeing the talks said.

Hemi Mitic, assistant to the president of the Canadian Auto Workers, said the union had turned down the company's latest contract offer and was preparing for a labor stoppage.

"The committee's already told the company that it's not going to fly," he said.

"(Xstrata) has said it's their final offer. So we're hoping the company reconsiders, but it doesn't look that way."

He said Xstrata had told the CAW it could begin shutting down operations later on Monday in preparation for a formal strike beginning after the current three-year contract expires at midnight on Tuesday.

An Xstrata spokesman did not immediately return calls.

The negotiations cover about 600 workers. Mitic said the main bargaining issues were wage increases and contract language.

The Kidd metallurgical operations, which have seen previous strikes in 1999 and 2005, consist of a smelter, concentrator and refinery. They have annual production of about 6,500 tonnes of copper anode, 125,000 tonnes of copper cathode, 138,000 tonnes of zinc and 540,000 tonnes of sulphuric acid.

The operations are separate from the Kidd copper-zinc mine, where workers are not unionized. The site processes feed from both Xstrata's operations and third-party miners.

Xstrata acquired the operation when it bought Falconbridge in 2006.

(Reporting by Cameron French; editing by Rob Wilson)