Thompson, Manitoba USW Local 6166 and Vale reach tentative deal- by John Barker (Thompson Citizen – September 12, 2011)

The Thompson Citizen, which was established in June 1960, covers the City of Thompson and Nickel Belt Region of Northern Manitoba. The city has a population of about 13,500 residents while the regional population is more than 40,000.

Ratifcation vote Sept. 15

USW Local 6166 and Vale’s Manitoba Operations have reached a tentative agreement three days before the current three-year collective is due to expire Sept. 15, says Ryan Land, manager of corporate affairs for Vale’s Manitoba Operations, and Murray Nychyporuk, president of USW Local 6166, in a joint press release issued Monday.

The USW will be holding two meetings today with its members to present the offer and “express its unanimous support of the proposed Offer of Settlement,” says Nychyporuk and Land.

Members will have two days to review and consider the offer. The ratification vote will take place Thursday, Sept. 15, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

If ratified the deal in Thompson will break a pattern of two long and bitter labour disputes, both now resolved, in Sudbury and Voisey’s Bay. After almost a year on the picket line between July 2009 and July 2010, striking Steelworkers at Local 6500 in Sudbury and Local 6200 in Port Colborne, Ont. voted about 75 per cent to ratify a five-year deal with Vale, four days short of a year of going on strike.

Striking United Steelworkers Local 9508 Vale workers at Voisey’s Bay fly-in nickel mine in northern Labrador voted 88 per cent in favour of a new five-year contract the end of January to end their bitter 18-month strike against, which began Aug. 1, 2009, and return to work.

The last major labour dispute at Vale’s Manitoba Operations was 12 years ago – an 11-week lockout by the company of unionized employees between September and December 1999.

USW Local 6166 members voted 95.3 per cent in favour of giving their negotiating committee a strike mandate Sept. 8. Seeking a strike mandate late in contact talks is an important but fairly routine part of the collective bargaining process, aimed at giving the union negotiating committee the strongest hand possible while talks go down to the wire, but not necessarily indicating one way or the other the likelihood of an actual strike.

USW Local 6166’s negotiating committee is headed by Nychyporuk and includes from the mines department Dan Dnistransky and Scott Clements; from the maintenance department Warren Luky and Craig Costello; and from surface and miscellaneous Paul Bentley and Gord Medwid.

USW staff representative Roy Leslie from Flin Flon, who is the USW’s newest staff representative in Northern Manitoba, assisted the union side.

Vale’s Manitoba Operations management negotiating committee includes Warren Brass, manager of T1 Mine; Mark Scott, manager of the refinery, scheduled to close in 2015 after Vale’s Long Harbour refinery in Newfoundland opens in 2013 and feed from Voisey’s Bay is sent there rather than Thompson; Richard Ukrainetz, manager of maintenance; Marie Josee Castonguay, manager of human resources; and Greg Haley, manager of labour relations for Vale Base Metals, who is the lead negotiator in the Thompson talks for the company.

The management team was assisted in their preparations and supported during negotiations by David Barnes, director of employee and industrial relations for Vale Base Metals; Milt Christiansen, a labour lawyer with the law firm Akins, MacAulay and Thorvaldsen LLP in Winnipeg; and Darin Kulbaski, business analyst for Manitoba smelting and refining in Thompson.