Let arbitration decide their fate, union argues – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – December 9, 2011)

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

The lawyer for United Steelworkers has a remedy for how the Ontario Labour Relations Board can resolve the case of eight workers fired by Vale Ltd. during the union’s yearlong strike against the mining giant.

Brian Shell asked the panel to direct that the dismissals be dealt with by just-cause arbitration; that those arbitrations be scheduled and heard within three to four months; and that the eight firings be heard in six separate arbitrations so they don’t drag on for a decade.

Vale Ltd. offered a more simple fix during final arguments presented to the OLRB on Thursday in Sudbury. Don’t direct the firings to arbitration. Let them stand.

Shell spoke with reporters after six hours of closing arguments, saying Vale was essentially telling the labour board Vale “should be allowed to do what we want and exercise our superior strength, power and money freely without regulation by the labour relations board.”

After directing the firings to arbitration, the union wants the board to set a timeframe for the proceedings so workers aren’t still attending them “in 2014 … when they should have been back to work in 2010” when other Steelworkers returned after the strike.

The arbitrations must also be held individually, except for those of Patrick Veinot, Mike French and Jason Patterson. Their dismissals stemmed from an incident in the community in which a man who had crossed the picket line was confronted while jogging in the south end.

Veinot and Patterson were cleared of wrongdoing in the criminal matter. French received a conditional discharge, one year of probation and was ordered to write a letter of apology to the man he assaulted. All three were fired because of the incident.

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