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IAM traffic delays lead to speculation of Hudbay injunction

Striking Hudbay tradespeople were preparing for a possible injunction to end their traffic slowdowns yesterday after failing to reach an agreement with the company on picket line protocol.

Striking Hudbay tradespeople were preparing for a possible injunction to end their traffic slowdowns yesterday after failing to reach an agreement with the company on picket line protocol.

IAM Local 1848 vice-president Blair Sapergia said a letter from Hudbay hinted at an injunction to end the union’s tactic of delaying drivers entering company property through the main gate.

The letter, sent to IAM on Tuesday, does not mention the word “injunction” but does demand the union restore “full and unimpeded access” to Hudbay property before 4 pm Tuesday – a deadline that was not met.

But the letter also invited IAM to discuss with Hudbay a picket line protocol. The union obliged, but no deal was reached.



Sapergia doesn’t believe a protocol is

“We are abiding by the laws and following all the rules,” he said.

Sapergia said Hudbay’s proposed protocol contained “completely unreasonable” rules, such as an agreement to let traffic enter the property unimpeded while retaining the right to delay traffic exiting the site.

Hudbay’s letter to IAM, a copy of which was obtained by The Reminder, carried a grave tone.

The letter warned the union that if work at Hudbay operations in Flin Flon, Snow Lake and/or Reed mine “is stopped or interfered with by IAM and IAM
strikers,” the result would be “significant and
irreparable harm” to the company.

“IAM has the lawful right to strike, but does not have the right to effectively blockade or reduce access to the [Flin Flon] Site, Reed Mine or Snow Lake through its picket line,” added the letter.

IAM picketers did not delay vehicles entering Hudbay’s Flin Flon operations yesterday morning. Sapergia said the RCMP asked the union to refrain given the slippery road conditions.

Other than the picket protocol meeting, Sapergia said yesterday morning there had been no further discussions between IAM and Hudbay.

Given a chance to respond to Sapergia’s comments, Rob Winton, head of Hudbay’s Manitoba division, praised employees for allowing operations to continue.

“As the first week of the IAM strike action continues, Hudbay is operating all of our plants and mines at levels that ensure the safety of our employees and our assets,” Winton said Wednesday afternoon. “This is a testament to the planning done by our management teams and the strength of our employees. The dedication and perseverance of our employees highlights their care and loyalty to their departments and the employees they work with.

“Our goal through this process was to ensure safe access to our employees and safe movement of community members to limit impact and reduce risks.”

Sapergia said he didn’t think discussions with Hudbay would resume “until the wheels come completely off” at company operations.

“They haven’t completely shut down yet, but, I mean, they’re close,” said Sapergia, adding that he was referring to Flin Flon operations and was awaiting an update on the situation in Snow Lake.

As IAM’s traffic slowdowns proceeded Wednesday morning, a line of dozens of vehicles – belonging to employees and contractors alike – once again stretched from near the Hudbay main gate down the Perimeter Highway.

Among those delayed getting into work was Nick Somers.

“My advice is bring entertainment, it will help pass the time easier,” said Somers, whose waits had ranged from three to seven hours. “Can’t get mad at the strikers, they are fighting for their rights.”

Several Hudbay employees told The Reminder the company is having workers use only the entrance near the main gate because it wants a record of everybody entering the property.

Lined up

In its letter to IAM, Hudbay said that on 7:35 am Monday, 217 vehicles were lined up waiting to enter the property and it took nine and a half hours for the last driver to gain access.

Delays were also experienced in Snow Lake, the letter said, but no specifics were given.

While walking in front of traffic to delay drivers from reaching a destination can be illegal in other circumstances, the RCMP considers such tactics acceptable in the context of a strike or protest.

“Everyone has a peaceful right to protest and that’s what they’re doing,” said Tara Seel, an RCMP spokesperson, adding that as of Wednesday afternoon police had received no complaints from the general public regarding the slowdowns.

Seel said RCMP are “constantly monitoring” the strike and maintain dialogue with both the picketers and Hudbay.

Meanwhile, Sapergia said that as of Wednesday afternoon there had been no sign of replacement workers at Hudbay.

“So far, no, but the way that we’re going here I don’t know how they’re going to keep going without bringing in some more maintenance people,” said Sapergia. “I mean, if their plan is to keep running, well then they have to do something.”

Sapergia said Hudbay has been using staffers to fill vacancies resulting from the strike.

“They rounded up all the maintenance-type staff people that they could and that’s who they’re using to keep the equipment running or repair what they can,” said

Sapergia. “I mean, there’s a handful of them at best. It’s an exercise in futility and I don’t understand how they can even pretend they’re going to keep doing it, but so far they’re holding the line. So are we.”

Council’s hope

Elsewhere, at Tuesday’s Flin Flon city council meeting, Mayor Cal Huntley shared council’s hope that the strike will be brief.

“This is from all of us collectively, and I don’t know whether it helps, hinders or whatever, but we certainly hope that the present situation gets resolved to everyone’s satisfaction in a short period of time,” Huntley told Sapergia.

Sapergia, who had just urged council to take a position against replacement workers, told Huntley that he shares that hope.

IAM picket lines in Flin Flon –near the main gate and along the Perimeter Highway – continued to run 24 hours a day yesterday.

Due to the smaller number of picketers available in Snow Lake, the picket line near the Lalor mine was operating only during the day.

On its website, IAM continued to be critical of Hudbay this week. In one post the union referred to the Lalor mine as having a “proven 30+ year mine life.”

But in an email to The Reminder last month, Winton said Lalor currently has a 15-year projected lifespan.


IAM’s strike began last Saturday, May 2. The union’s 180 members, mainly mechanics, machinists and pipefitters, represent 12 per cent of Hudbay’s northern Manitoba workforce.

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