Rare win for union at Nevada Gold Mines

Cortez gold mine, part of Nevada Gold Mines. Image from Barrick.

Nevada Gold Mines (NGM) – the world’s largest gold mining complex – was created last year as a joint venture between Newmont and Barrick, and the miners said the business combination is expected to generate savings of $500 million a year within the first full five years.

Barrick, the world’s second-largest gold miner, operates NGM and owns 61.5% of the business, and Newmont, the world’s largest gold miner, holds the remaining 38.5%.

It includes Barrick’s Goldstrike, Cortez, Turquoise Ridge and Goldrush, and Newmont’s Carlin, Twin Creeks, Phoenix and Long Canyon, along with associated processing plants and infrastructure of both companies.

NGM posted strong performance in its first 12 months of operations, but a dispute with its union, while reported by local news in Nevada, flew under the mining industry radar.

Operating Engineers Local 3, the union that represented employees at Newmont for over 50 years and representing over 1,300 filed an unfair labour practice complaint with the National Labour Relations Board, (NLRB), a federal agency, after Nevada Gold Mines withdrew recognition of the union in December 2019.

“NGM had withdrawn recognition, and all of these bargaining unit employees no longer had any union representation or protection under their collective bargaining agreements,” Gening Liao, House Counsel, Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, told MINING.com.

Liao said that for the first few months of operations, the union had a good working relationship with Nevada Gold Mines, and the company had made assurances that the collective bargaining agreements would continue to be recognized.

When NGM officially withdrew recognition, Liao said the employees were sent letters that provided that their employment was at will, which is contrary to protections under the collective bargaining agreement.

The remedy through the usual administrative process is a drawn-out process – but days before oral arguments were scheduled to begin, settlement talks were underway

“Our position was that they withdrew recognition illegally,” Liao said.  

In June, the NLRB alleged in court documents that Nevada Gold Mines had engaged in “unlawful conduct” by not recognizing the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 3., the Elko Daily Press reported.

The remedy through the usual administrative process is a drawn-out process – it can take two to three years to get a final decision from the NLRB – but days before oral arguments were scheduled to begin, settlement talks were underway.

Liao said it was when the NLRB determined that the harm from withdrawn recognition would be so irreparable that they prepared go to court and seek an injunction under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, which would create an expedited process to put the matter in front of a judge, was when Nevada Gold Mines settled.

Recognition was withdrawn on December 23, 2019, and reinstated August 6, 2020, and during the time that the company had withdrawn recognition, Liao said there were several job losses, changes to employee benefits and lost pension contributions. 

In the settlement document, Nevada Gold Mines stated:

“NGM will make whole, with interest and the appropriate withholdings, the bargaining unit employees to the extent they suffered economically as a result of NGM’s unilateral changes and failure to abide by the 2019-2022 Collective-Bargaining Agreement between predecessor employer Newmont USA Limited dba Newmont Mining Corporation and Operating Engineers Local Union #3 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO (the Union), including, but not limited to, any lost overtime or premium pay as a result of the unilateral changes.”

“A lot of people suffered – there were pensions that had been paid into for decades that just disintegrated. People were paid out, but benefits that people had relied on were changed overnight,” Liao said.

“It is significant, what Nevada Gold Mines did, but we are pleased to be in the position where we are now, with the company at least acknowledging that they do still need to abide by the collective bargaining agreement and recognize the union.”

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