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Cascade Aerospace's striking workers vote in favour of 4-yr pact, return Monday

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Unionized workers at Cascade Aerospace will return to work on Monday after voting to accept a new four-year contract that contains wage increases and improved job security clauses, among other things.

In addition, the company has given the union a written commitment that its operations in Abbotsford, B.C., will continue to be the primary location for heavy maintenance on the Canadian Air Force's C-130 cargo aircraft.

Negotiators for Cascade and Unifor reached a tentative settlement on Wednesday and it was ratified on Thursday by 96 per cent of the membership votes cast.

The agreement ends a strike that began in early June.

Unifor Local 114 represents about 440 workers at Cascade Aerospace, which is owned by Halifax-based IMP Group.

The workers include aircraft maintenance engineers, interior technicians, painters, planning clerks and sheet metal mechanics.

Cascade Aerospace is contracted by the Department of National Defence to repair and overhaul on the Hercules aircraft heavy transport fleet. It also repairs commercial aircraft for firms such as Canjet, an IMP company.

Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor's director for B.C. and the union's lead negotiator in the Cascade talks, said that the company's written commitment will strengthen job security at the shop.

Assuming cost-of-living adjustments are as expected, wages go up 2.5 per cent in the first year, retroactive to March 31. They'll then rise 2.4 per cent in the second and third year and by 2.3 per cent in the final year of the agreement, which ends March 30, 2018.

There are also significant increases in premiums paid for certain work.

McGarrigle said Cascade has long-term commitments from the Defence department and Lockheed Martin, which makes the C-130s

"We believe there was some flexibility in those contracts in where the work would be done and so that's what the members in Abbotsford were focused on, trying to protect the good jobs there in Abbotsford," McGarrigle said in a phone interview.

For its part, the union agreed to a mediator's recommendation for changes to vacations and pension provisions, but McGarrigle says they won't affect any current worker or anybody hired there over the next four years.

"We look at this as a truce and we'll continue to build Cascade and go back to the bargaining table and seek to deal with those issues next time, long before they impact any members," McGarrigle said.

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