(KCPW News) Higher wages, capped health care premiums and pension benefits for retirees have been secured for 1,200 employees of Kennecott Utah Copper. Wayne Holland with United Steelworkers, speaking on behalf of the four unions in the contract negotiations, says the process gave workers a renewed sense of optimism about their relationship with Kennecott’s parent company, Rio Tinto.
“This has taken too long in my opinion for us to develop the kind of relationship that would result in just dignity on the job,” Holland says, adding that this bargaining session seems to have put the unions and Rio Tinto on the road to having that kind of relationship.
The previous contract, which took ten months to negotiate, expires today. This time around, the parties reached an agreement in just one month. Kennecott spokeswoman Jana Kettering says the negotiations concluded in record time, which is good for the company and the employees.
“It is very significant in that we can get back to business and there is some certainty for the employees involved,” Kettering says.
Holland says the contract includes the most significant pension increases in the history of the copper industry, and the company’s unionized production and maintenance workers will receive an immediate dollar-per-hour raise.