July 29, 2008 / 3:44 AM / in 9 years

Potash Corp, union agree to keep talking on Tuesday

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Potash Corp of Saskatchewan, the world’s top fertilizer producer, held productive talks on Monday with workers who picketed one of its potash mines, and agreed to continue negotiations on Tuesday, a company spokesman said.

“They had good, long and substantial talks,” said Bill Johnson, a company spokesman, late on Monday evening as talks wrapped up with the United Steelworkers union.

“The fact that they’re meeting tomorrow would suggest there’s some success in the talks to date,” Johnson said in a telephone interview.

Discussions broke off this month after 500 workers at three mines rejected a Potash Corp contract offer.

The workers staged a one-day strike on Monday at the Cory mine southwest of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to try to pressure the company to resume talks.

Potash fertilizer prices have tripled over the past year and potash company stock prices have soared as a world shortage of grain prompts cash-rich farmers to boost yields.

“Really, it’s a matter of our members taking a position to share the wealth on the pink gold,” said union negotiator Lee Edwards, referring to the pink color of the mineral.

Neither side has revealed details of the offer, but the union said it would leave members with less pay than most workers in the mining industry as a whole, at a time when the company is raking in record profits.

Potash Corp has said the offer would make the miners the best paid in the potash mining industry.

The union told the company it would not conduct rotating strikes on Tuesday, but its members would continue to refuse to work overtime, Johnson said.

The two sides are still discussing whether they can find a suitable mediator to aid talks, Johnson said.

Underground and mill workers at the mines have been without a labor contract since the end of April.

The mines affected by the labor action accounted for about 2.8 million metric tons, or 30 percent, of the company’s production last year.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Jennifer Kwan; Editing by David Gregorio & Kim Coghill

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