By Jillian Mitchell
As the Saskatchewan Potash Council promotes, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” It’s a mandate that proudly reflects the collective bargaining power of a union.
The Saskatchewan Potash Council is an umbrella organization aimed at creating one voice for all unionized potash workers in the Saskatchewan mines. Together, the province’s eight unionized mines make up the council’s approximately 3,500 members.
“One of our main goals is to continue to raise the standards of safety in our mines and make them better every day,” says Darrin Kruger, the council’s secretary treasurer. “As a council, we are one unit speaking for an industry and a group of workers.”
Like Kruger, many council members believe the formation of the organization to be a truly historical event for Saskatchewan labour and the province’s potash industry. For over 40 years, there have been multiple efforts to coordinate a form of union, and five years ago, these efforts finally came to fruition with the help of three different united bodies: the United Steelworkers Union (USW); the Communication, Energy, and Paperworkers Union (CEP); and the Rocanville Potash Employees’ Association (RPEA).
“Back in 2008, a need was identified to get together as one large organization and advocate on each other’s behalf for better working conditions and benefits,” says Kruger, who is also president of USW Local 7552. “Five years coming up; we’re happy about that.”
As Kruger, a heavy-duty mechanic, explains, the council regularly meets to discuss its member-driven mandate derived from the following key principles:
- Exchange information on a regular basis
- Advise potash workers through their respective organizations on issues of concern
- Member education, collective bargaining, political action, strategic campaigns, health and safety regulations, WCB compensation and appeals
- Help promote workers’ issues within the potash industry
- Lobby both levels of government to support workers’ rights
With the recent industry boom, many of the mines have announced billion-dollar expansions. It is an occurrence that Kruger views as an opportunity to put the council’s principles into practice.
“We are happy to be part of the opportunity, but we also need to work with our employers and with the government to ensure the challenges are being met with responsibility,” he says. “Our goal is to work with the players in the industry to make things better for our members, for the communities we live in, and for the companies we work for.”
As they look toward the next five years, it is important to the council to maintain strong relationships with the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, the Saskatchewan Mining Association, and employers along the way, says Kruger.
“Saskatchewan is thriving and the industry has grown leaps and bounds over the years. Since I started in 1996, our membership has almost doubled,” he says. “As workers, we are not necessarily competitive; we need to help each other and bring up the standard of operations. It’s about community. We are all in the same industry.”
The Saskatchewan Potash Council is planning a celebration for its upcoming fifth anniversary. Though it’s a little premature to comment on the celebration, Kruger does mention that plans are in the works—and an announcement is planned for January, 2013.
For more information about the Saskatchewan Potash Council, please visit:
Meet the council!
Ron St. Pierre, co-chair (president of United Steelworkers, Local 7689)
Born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Ron St. Pierre is a man of many talents. Admittedly, St. Pierre held an array of positions—a Hudson Bay Company fur agent in Northern Canada, a dairy farmer in Saskatchewan, a crane operator, and a labourer—before finally getting hooked on to a career in shaft work, where he has dedicated the last 38 years.
But, the husband and father of three is not looking to retirement anytime soon. He has a vested interest in the union and has spent many years in the top executive. Most notably, St. Pierre was part of the union bargaining situation of 2008 that changed union operations; this same situation birthed the Saskatchewan Potash Council.
Rick Suchy, co-chair (president of Communications Energy and Paperworkers, Local 922)
Rick Suchy has made it a career goal to become familiar with the mining industry. With stints in both underground and surface work, Suchy is keen to take on any task thrown his way. Most notably, he was employed as an electrician at the Lanigan potash mine for nearly 15 years and spent the previous three years employed in the uranium industry in northern Saskatchewan.
A union member for nearly his entire career, Suchy has been president of Local 992 for five years, representing 480 members. In addition, he is also a member of the occupational health and safety (OH&S) committees. Having a safe, respectful, and equitable place of employment is the local’s goal, and Suchy proudly brings this attitude to the council’s “one voice” for all potash workers.
Darrin Kruger, secretary treasurer (president of United Steelworkers, Local 7552)
Darrin Kruger has been a familiar face in the Saskatchewan potash mines for 17 years. And during this time, Kruger has also been an active member of Local 7552. The husband and father of three is currently in his fourth year of a heavy-duty mechanic apprenticeship and concurrently serves as a board member of the United Way of Saskatoon and area. Kruger is also an alumnus of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference (2008) and was one of the founding members of the Saskatchewan Potash Council back in 2008. This year, Kruger is pleased to continue his second term as the council’s secretary treasurer.
Bryan Glazer, president of Communications Energy and Paperworkers, Local 892
Bryan Glazer was born and raised on a farm a few kilometres west of Esterhazy—and currently resides one mile north of his home of origin. Glazer has worked at Mosaic Potash, formally IMC, for over 31 years and has made a career in both the underground production and shaft departments.
An active union member, he has held various positions within CEP Local 892, as a member of the local executive, the vice-unit chair, and as president. As well, he is currently the vice-president of the Yorkton and District Labour Council, and sits on the board for both the Yorkton and District United Way and the SaskWorks Venture Fund. Additionally, Glazer has sat on the executive board of Potash Council since its inception.
The husband and father of two balances his work life with an active home life, spending time with friends and family, hunting, fishing, golfing, quading, camping, and riding his Harley.
Scott Ruston, president of United Steelworkers, Local 7656
Scott Ruston prides himself on being active in the mining community. The president of USW Local 7656 (Mosaic Potash Colonsay site) was first elected in 2009 and re-elected in April 2012, and has held many union positions since beginning with the industry in 1995. In addition, Ruston also serves as president of the USW Saskatoon and Area Council and has also been active on the Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) committee since 1997.
Graduating from the Labour College of Canada in 2005, Ruston went on to earn an additional diploma from the University of Saskatchewan’s Labour Studies program in 2008, where he graduated as class valedictorian. To maintain his education, the husband and father of two has taken numerous courses through the United Steelworkers, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
Neil Wolff, president of United Steelworkers, Local 189
Neil Wolff is a true Saskatchewan boy. Hailing from a pulp and paper background, Wolff made the switch to the potash industry in 2006 where he started his career as a load-out operator. Invariably, the first six years of his potash career has been very active, as he has held many positions in Local 189: vice-president, shop steward, and grievance chair (2007); bargaining committee member (2008); president of Local 189 (2009); apprentice millwright (2010); and re-elected president (2012).
Randy Rounce, president of United Steelworkers, Local 7458
Randy Rounce has been a proud member of the United Steelworkers Local 7458 for over 39 years. Just entering his fourth three-year term as president, he has been involved with the union local in one form or another since the beginning of his mining career. In his term as president, Rounce helped move the United Way from a “non-working campaign” in the workplace to a joint-union company campaign, for which he was recognized for his efforts.
An active member on four different bargaining committees, Rounce was one of the founding fathers of the Saskatchewan Potash Council, during the 99-day strike of 2008. He is also involved with the USW Area Council, which is made up of all steelworker locals in the Saskatoon district, and is a member of the Saskatoon District Labour Council.
Other members include:
Dale McAuley – co-chair (president of Rocanville Potash Employees’ Association)
Shannon Reitenbach, unit-chair of Communications Energy and Paperworkers, Local 892
FYI: “Other members (one from each local) rotate in and out to gain exposure and understanding of the council and issues of our greater membership.”
– Darrin Krugerby