After nearly two months of strike action, Compass Minerals International Inc. and hourly workers at its mine in Goderich, Ont., remain at a stalemate in contract negotiations over proposed cuts to employees’ pensions.

The latest contract offering from the company includes the removal of the deferred profit-sharing portion of the plan along with the elimination of its early retirement provision, according to Glenn Sonier, the national representative for Unifor’s Local 16-O.

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“So if somebody wants to retire early, before 65, the language in the contract would provide that the company would maintain the benefits until the employee reaches 65,” he says. “They wanted to delete that from the collective agreement, which has an impact. And of course, we’ve had members utilize that, so it’s quite important.”

Under the deferred profit-sharing plan, the company makes contributions based on its financial performance. Compass Minerals is proposing eliminating the plan altogether.

“In bargaining, they never discussed it, but at the very last minute, as they gave us a final offer, it showed up in the offer to remove that portion,” says Sonier. “And, of course, we’re saying no, it has an impact, members have done well with it. And also, there’s a process for removal of that under the Financial Services Commission [of Ontario].”

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Another issue at stake is shift schedules, according to Sonier, who notes the company is asking employees to work underground in 12-hour shifts. It has also proposed a schedule whereby employees would work three weeks at 60 hours a week followed by a fourth week at 72 hours. In addition, the new contract proposals include mandatory overtime.

“So even though you’re working a 12-hour shift, doing 72 hours in a week, they wanted the right to be able to come to you and say, ‘You’re staying an extra four hours,’ or, ‘By the way, you have to come in again tomorrow,'” says Sonier.

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While Compass Minerals didn’t respond to a request for comment, a statement published when the strike began at the end of April noted the company’s goal is to negotiate a collective agreement that focuses on the safety of its employees and represents the current operational environment of the Goderich mine.

“Our employees are essential for the success of our organization and the company plays an important role in the Goderich community,” said Anthony Sepich, senior vice-president of salt at Compass Minerals, in the statement.

“We are committed to work with the union to negotiate an agreement that achieves this goal.”

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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