Union accuses Highland Valley Copper of "mean-spirited threat"

By James Peters / Chad Harris
October 6, 2016 - 4:30pm Updated: October 6, 2016 - 5:38pm

KAMLOOPS — The United Steelworkers says Teck Resources-owned Highland Valley Copper has hit below the belt.

The two sides are involved in a bitter bargaining battle, and now USW Local 7619 President Kyle Wolff says the company is investigating his members for doing charity work using union book-off time.

"We thought it would be a good thing to bring our bargaining team. We have nine members who took some time out of their own day and came in early, went to the Kamloops Food Bank to help organize food, and supply different bags and baskets into the community, and ultimately now we are under investigation," said Wolff. 

Wolff says union members have taken time to volunteer for charitable causes for years, and this is the first time the company has made an issue of it.

"We have never had a problem before. We have sent people to Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, we have sent people to Quebec, Pittsburgh. We've sent people even just locally next door, in Cache Creek they had the flood and we sent two people down there to help with the flood relief."

He notes it's clearly because bargaining is not going well.

"It has been very contentious. The company is asking for a lot of concessions on the table for no apparent reason. Our local brothers out in Elkview and Fording both have tentative deals on the table now and they have had no concessions at all. The company continues to say that they are broke, and we know they are not." 

Wolff says the two sides are still working on non-monetary issues, with another round of meetings set for the last week of October.

Highland Valley's Peter Martell wouldn't comment on this specific investigation, saying it's part of ongoing bargaining, but adds the company supports its workers doing charity work.

"At Teck and Highland Valley Copper we fully support our employees volunteering in the community. As one of the major local community supporters in our region we know how important it is to give back to the community," said Martell. 

Wolff says the two sides are still working on non-monetary issues, with another round of meetings set for the last week of October.

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