Stock awards — best known as perks given to top managers — are coming to hourly employees at the Galena silver mine.
A new contract signed by the Steelworkers and the mine’s owners makes employees eligible for 50 shares of company stock for each month they work.
“We wanted our employees to be owners of the mine. The better the company does, the better they do,” said Mark Hartmann, president of U.S. Silver Corp.
U.S. Silver purchased the underground mine near Silverton, Idaho, in June from Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp. The company has ambitious plans for a turnaround at the Galena, which lost $2.2 million last year despite rising silver prices.
Hartmann said the 53-year-old mine is on track to turn a profit in 2007.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” he said. “We’re going to achieve in six months what we initially thought it would take 19 months to do.”
The discovery of high-value ore during exploration efforts has given a boost to the mine’s balance sheets, Hartmann said. Strong silver prices over the past six months have also helped. The metal was trading at $12 per ounce on Friday.
When union and management sat down at the bargaining table, both sides were interested in promoting employee ownership, Hartmann said. The 4 ½-year contract, signed a month ago, covers 120 hourly workers at the mine. Employees also received a raise through the contract, and a profit-sharing plan that will distribute 7.5 percent of the Galena’s net income to employees, Hartmann said.
U.S. Silver Corp. formed specifically to purchase the Galena Mine. The privately held firm is merging with a Canadian firm, which will allow company shares to trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The company’s eventual goal is to trade on the American Stock Exchange, Hartmann said.