Workers at Teck's Elkview coal ops serve strike notice

27th January 2011 By: Liezel Hill

TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Unionised workers at Teck Resources' Elkview coal operations in south-east British Columbia have served a strike notice and could down tools on January 30 if no agreement is reached on a new contract.

More than 700 workers have been without a contract since the previous labour agreement expired on October 31.

"Our members are preparing to bring about an orderly shutdown and strike action will commence on Sunday," said United Steelworkers union representative Dan Will.

Negotiations have been under way with the company since September, Will said. Unresolved issues include the employer's contribution levels to the workers' retirement plan and retiree benefits

The USW represents an assortment of workers at Elkview, including heavy equipment operators, trades and maintenance workers and labourers

"Teck remains committed to negotiating a new collective agreement," the company said in a separate statement.

The Vancouver-based company said last week that difficult weather conditions and rail and port disruptions in British Columbia would likely have a negative effect on coal production in the first quarter.

The firm said it expected to sell between five-million and 5,5-million tons of coal in the first quarter, compared with 5,25-million tons a year earlier.

However, it warned at the time that the forecast did not take into account potential labour disruptions at Elkview, or at Fording River, where the collective agreement expires on April 30.

Teck produces copper, zinc and metallurgical coal.

It is the second-biggest producer of seaborne hard-coking coal, behind BHP Billiton, after its 2008 acquisition of Fording Canadian Coal.

Shares in the company fell 3% on Thursday, to C$59,13 apiece by 16:22 in Toronto.