Thompson, Manitoba Vale Steelworkers ratify three-year agreement – by Ian Graham (Thompson Citizen – September 16, 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.

USW Local 6166 members voted 87.8 per cent in favour of accepting an offer of settlement from Vale’s Manitoba Operations for a new three-year collective bargaining agreement Sept. 15.

“We are very pleased to have ratified a new agreement that is fair to employees and promotes our sustainability in Thompson,” said Lovro Paulic, general manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations in a press release the night of the ratification vote. “We are proud of our positive working relationship with the union and its members. This is a good day for Thompson.”

The offer was presented Sept. 12 to the USW negotiating team, which unanimously recommended it upon presenting it to union members later that day.

“This is a positive outcome that was made possible by respecting the process,” said Murray Nychyporuk, USW Local 6166 president, in the Vale press release. “We are glad that there was such strong turnout by our members.”

The press release characterized the negotiation process as “respectful” and praised both sides for working to reach an agreement. This marks the fourth straight labour agreements achieved without a labour disruption at Vale’s Manitoba Operations. 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.

“This is a great day for our Manitoba Operations and for Vale in Canada,” said John Pollesel, chief operating officer for Vale’s North Atlantic region, in a Sept. 16 Vale press release. “We are very pleased to have a new agreement in place that our employees support – this result is good for the entire community of Thompson and bodes well for the sustainability of our operations in Manitoba.”

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.