A potential strike at the Stillwater Mine has been avoided, at least for a week.
The company announced that it has reached a tentative agreement the United Steelworkers on a four-year contract that was set to expire on May 29. The agreement extends the contract one more week and calls for a member vote on June 4 and 5, according to a release from the company.
The union’s negotiating committee and representatives of the United Steelworkers International are recommending ratification of the agreement, according to the company release.
The two sides have been negotiating since March on a new deal for workers at Stillwater’s East Boulder and Columbus facilities, The Billings Gazette reported.
Even with blessings from negotiators on both sides, a tentative agreement does not necessarily avoid a work stoppage. In 2003 and 2007, union miners rejected tentative agreements and chose to strike for six and 10 days, respectively.
Shareholders of the publicly traded Stillwater responded positively to the news, and stock prices rose about 3 percent Thursday morning to about $14.25.
Negotiations had grown testy in recent weeks when union officials said Stillwater officials had proposed a pay cut while reporting a $23 million profit for the first quarter of the year.
Company officials have said that slumping commodities prices are forcing them to cut costs and run more efficiently.
Billings-based Stillwater is Montana’s largest mining company and the nation’s only producer of platinum and palladium. The company operates mines at Nye and East Boulder in the Beartooth foothills and processing and recycling facility in Columbus.