Farm vehicles block access to Goderich salt mine

Another court date looms as striking workers replaced one blockade at the entrance of a salt mine with another on the weekend.

GODERICH – Another court date looms as striking workers replaced one blockade at the entrance of a salt mine with another on the weekend - writes

The workers, who are represented by Unifor, removed stacks of wooden pallets they erected Wednesday in front the Compass Minerals mine on Goderich’s waterfront to comply with a court order obtained by the company.

But the pallets were replaced by a line of tractors after Unifor invited the community to show its solidarity with the striking workers at barbecues Saturday and Sunday.

Glenn Sonier, a national representative for Unifor, said the tractor blockade runs counter to the court order, but the workers who have been on strike for more than 10 weeks have no other choice.

“As a labour movement, after so many weeks being on strike you’ve got to have some sort of position,” he said. “The replacement workers have been a real sore spot in the community.”

Unifor said the company flew in replacement workers from New Brunswick to keep the mine running.

The company said the market is a competitive one and it has used contractors to fill long-term orders.

About 30 replacement workers, with their faces covered, walked out of the mine Friday as striking union members jeered and chanted at them.

There are still a few replacement workers in the mine, Sonier said.

Compass Minerals could not be reached for comment.

“The last we heard from Compass was they weren’t interested in negotiating unless we allowed replacement workers through,” Sonier said. “And that’s not gonna happen.”

Fearful the company will try again to get replacement workers into the mine, strikers are keeping a close eye on land and water. Union members ran to the shore when a boat appeared Sunday near the mine that travels under Lake Huron, but it turned out to be a couple of anglers.

Sonier described the community support for the striking workers as “amazing.”

Larry Gaynor said he has been on strike several times in his 38 years at the mine but this strike is different.

“We’ve been able to bargain through other ones,” he said. “With this one, the company never wants to talk.”

Compass Minerals turned to the courts for the second time since the strike began to force the union to remove the first blockade.

The company said in a news release Saturday it had secured anOntario Superior Court order for the “illegal and unsafe blockade” at the entrance to the mine to be taken down by 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Our management and staff employees have been blocked from coming to their place of work and when they attempted to do so, were violently threatened by picketers. We were left with no choice but to initiate legal action,” the company wrote.

“We expect that Unifor and the picketers will respect the law and both court orders and return to lawful demonstration,” Compass added.

The union said the blockade was removed by the Saturday deadline.

The company was previously granted a court injunction inMay to limit the amount of time pickets can delay traffic in and out of the mine, the largest employer in Goderich and the largest underground salt mine in the world.

The members of Unifor Local 16-0 have been on strike since April 27.

Compass Minerals said it made the union an offer that addressed all outstanding issues and included wage increases and benefit improvements.

The union says the company isdemanding concessions such as mandatory overtime, reduced benefits, and a weakening of contracting-out provisions.

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