Xstrata gives [Sudbury] workers a time out – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – November 23, 2011)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Hundreds of employees at Xstrata Nickel’s Fraser and Nickel Rim South mines were sent home from the job Monday for what the company is calling a “short safety pause” after an increase in safety-related incidents at the two operations. Mine Mill Local 598/CAW president Richard Paquin said about 300 workers at Fraser Mine have been told to think about safety for an “indefinite” period of time while the company devises a plan to make the mine safer.

About 250 employees at Nickel Rim South were sent home Monday after sitting through a four-hour safety talk, he said. While Paquin said he has no problem with Xstrata wanting to draft a plan to make its workplaces safer, the question is whether members will be paid for the unexpected time off. Union and Xstrata officials began talking Monday night and spent all day Tuesday discussing the issue, said Paquin.

He was waiting to hear from Xstrata today about whether it intends to pay members or not. The union has sought legal advice on the matter. Xstrata spokeswoman Yonaniko (Iyo) Grenon issued a brief statement Tuesday afternoon in response to questions from The Sudbury Star prompted by calls to the paper from union members about being sent home.

Grenon said Xstrata has experienced an increase in the number of safety incidents at Fraser and Nickel Rim South. “Although these incidents were minor, we took the initiative to institute a short safety pause at our two mines to address this trend. “Our first priority is for the health and safety of our employees and we will continue to strive

for zero harm within our operations,” said Grenon. If the company wants to send workers home with pay while it institutes new safety measures, that is fine with the union, said Paquin. “But it is totally not OK” for members to sit at home, unpaid, while the company drafts a new safety plan.

Paquin also said he doubted the safety situation was as bad as the company was indicating. Paquin has received many calls from union members complaining about being sent home.

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