Hecla Mining reaches tentative agreement with union on Lucky Friday Mine strike
The two-and-half-year strike at Hecla Mining’s Lucky Friday Mine near Mullan, ID could be coming to an end thanks to a tentative deal reached between Hecla and the United Steelworkers Local 5114.
The agreement that could end the strike that began in March 2017 when union members began the strike because of proposed changes to work assignments, health care benefits, vacation scheduling and bonus pay tied to silver prices.
Luke Russell, vice president of external affairs told Mining Engineering that the tentative agreement still requires the ratification of the union members, but that he was hopeful that the two sides could come to a final agreement.
“With the help of a federal mediator, the two sides have reached common ground on things like an increase in base wages, the medical premium and job assignment training which was the bidding issue,” said Russell.
Russell said in the tentative agreement, the sides found common ground on a career progression system which will allow the workers to increase their wages as they increase their skill set. “This is patterned after the Galena Mine, which is also represent by the USW,” said Russell. “This is all tentative, but it would put the Lucky Friday on a path for success.
The Spokesman Review reported that USW 5114 indicated on its Facebook page that “final drafts between the company and the union have to be passed between the two sides and corrected as needed.”
“There’s a lot of work to do, so all we can say is that it will be done when everything comes together,” USW 5114 wrote on Facebook. “We would like to have meetings held and votes collected and counted by the end of the month. That may happen or not, depends on how quickly all the information is gathered.”
The Lucky Friday Mine, which was awarded the 2018 Sentinels of Safety award from the National Mining Association (ME, Oct. 23, 2019) as well as Idaho's Pollution Prevention Champion Award, has been limited to production by salaried employees since the strike began in July 2017.
With the ratification from the USW members, the mine could return to full production in about a year.
“We expect the mine ramp-up to full production to take about a year's time, which would be good for the workforce, shareholders and the community,” Phillips S. Baker, president and chief executive officer of Hecla said in the company’s third-quarter earnings statement.
According to Hecla’s 2018 year-end earnings report the strike has cost the company $14.6 million.
Silver production at the mine dropped to 169,041 ounces in 2018, a decrease from the 838,658 ounces produced in 2017, according to the report.
At the Lucky Friday Mine, 115,682 ounces of silver were produced by salaried workers in the third quarter of 2019, compared to 31,639 ounces in the third quarter of 2018.