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Devco miners in Cape Breton are hopeful they will reach an agreement after marathon meetings with the federal government earlier this week.

Ralph Goodale, the minister responsible for Devco, agreed to a joint planning committee to address miners’ concerns about future employment prospects, severance and early retirement. The committee, made up of the four unions representing Devco workers, management and the federal government, will begin meeting January 17.

“It took a two-week long wildcat strike, a mine occupation and intense public pressure to force the federal government to the table,” says Angus McEachern, president of the Devco supervisors’ union, CUPE 2046. “Minister Goodale couldn’t keep his head in the sand forever. He had to come out and address our concerns at some point.”

The miners agreed to end their occupation of Prince Mine, calling off their wildcat strike and allowing coal to be transported from Devco sites to nearby Nova Scotia Power plants.

The miners want severance packages to be paid out as salary over the next year; more miners to qualify for early retirement packages and a promise they will be re-hired if a private owner takes over the public company.

“Our demands are quite modest when you compare them to what workers got from other companies when they were privatized and downsized,” says McEachern.

When Canadian National Rail and VIA Rail were privatized, workers who opted for early retirement could qualify for their pensions. Those not up for early retirement could still contribute to their pensions, receive group benefits and life insurance and take a 24-month leave to further their education.

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