Hecla Mining Co. reported that United Steelworkers Union Local 5114, representing about 250 employees at the Lucky Friday Mine in Silver Valley, went on strike on March 13 after prolonged negotiations with Hecla Mining Co. failed to result in a new contract.
The previous six-year contract between the Coeur d’Alene-based company and the union expired at the end of April 2016. Both sides met several times with a federal mediator to try to move forward.
“We are disappointed in USW Local 5114’s decision to walk out, because this decision benefits no one – not the workers, their families, the local communities or the company,” Phillips S. Baker, Jr., Hecla’s President and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Lucky Friday has been an important part of the local economy for nearly 75 years, providing jobs with an above-average wage plus benefits.”
Baker said the company’s last, best and final contract offer provided competitive benefits and “the flexibility necessary to operate the mine successfully in a changing economic and regulatory environment.”
“Since the Lucky Friday is our highest cost mine, the changes will allow costs to improve,” he said. “While it is unfortunate Local 5114 has taken this action, we believe that with Hecla’s cash flow, and strong treasury, the strike will not have a material impact on our financial position.”
The union has objected to Hecla’s proposed changes to workers’ health care benefits, shift and vacation scheduling, and bonus pay, among other proposals, The Spokesman-Review reported.
The strike comes as Hecla is about to begin mining deeper ore that can be accessed with its new No. 4 shaft, which reaches almost 2 miles underground.
Hecla reported income of $69 million last year on sales of $646 million. The company produced 17 million ounces of silver in 2016; the Lucky Friday contributed 3.6 million ounces of silver to the total.
Hecla also operates mines in Alaska, Canada and Mexico.