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Rio Tinto refutes claims of reducing pensions

Rio Tinto claims that misinformation is being spread about items being discussed at the table
Members of the Unifor Local 2301 union picketing outside of the Rio Tinto smelter in Kitimat BC. (photo supplied)

Rio Tinto is refuting claims by Kitimat aluminum smelter employees that they are proposing a reduction in post-retirement or survival benefits.

The comments follow the decision by Unifor Local 2301 employees who began striking July 25, following weeks of unsuccessful contract negotiations.

The union says it has proposed the first changes to workers’ retirement income and benefit levels in more than a decade, including moving younger workers to defined benefit from defined contribution pension plans.

However, Rio Tinto stated, in a note shared to employees, that people are being misinformed about information being discussed at the table and says that the ‘malicious rumours’ are not benefiting either side of the table.

That said, the company still wants to negotiate a fair contract acceptable to both parties.

“We have made every effort to reach a mutually beneficial agreement through negotiating in good faith over the past seven weeks but we are at the point we need to take the gloves off for the benefit of everyone,” Affonso Bizon, general manager of Rio Tinto in Kitimat stated in a press release.

Rio Tinto has requested the intervention of a mediator to support the negotiation of a new collective labour agreement with employees represented by Unifor Local 2301 at the BC Works smelter and Kemano powerhouse.

No details have been provided as to what’s involved in contract talks as both parties have an elected team who is dealing with the contract negotiation, which is not public information.

Picketing is taking place in two separate locations – one on the road leading to the smelter cafeteria gate and the other at the main smelter gate — which is the only access point for anyone entering the smelter.

Usually picketing would take place at the railroad tracks but LNG Canada has applied to prevent that from happening so as to not affect its own work.

Unifor Local 2301 represents around 900 workers at Rio Tinto’s aluminum smelting plant in Kitimat and power operations facility in Kemano.

READ MORE: Unifor Local 2301 confirms strike to commence as of midnight tonight - July 25