NEWS RELEASE: “Patently Unreasonable” Vale Breaks Ontario Labour Law

Media release

Labour Board Ruling Vindicates Steelworkers In Case of Fired Employees
SUDBURY, 24 February, 2012 – Mining giant Vale engaged in “patently unreasonable” conduct and violated provincial labour law by firing nine Sudbury workers without recourse to arbitration, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled.

“This ruling is another concrete example of Vale’s blatant disregard for workers’ rights, for our laws and for our country’s labour relations traditions and culture,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard.

“This is a major victory for our union, for the working families who have been adversely affected by Vale’s unlawful conduct, and for unionized workers throughout the province,” said USW Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand.

“It is shameful that the affected families have suffered in limbo for more than two years due to Vale’s illegal decision to deny workers their right to independent arbitration,” Bertrand said.

The OLRB ruled Friday that Vale violated the Ontario Labour Relations Act by maintaining a “patently unreasonable” position with regard to nine workers fired by the company during a yearlong strike in Sudbury in 2009-10. Two of the fired workers – Patrick Veinot and Jason Patterson – also were elected officers of the local union.

Vale broke the law by not “making every reasonable effort to make a collective agreement” during negotiations, the labour board stated in its 29-page ruling, which made references to “troubling” behaviour by Vale.

The labour board agreed with the Steelworkers that the fired workers must have recourse to the long-established right and tradition of third-party, just-cause arbitration.

“The Ontario Labour Relations Board has upheld the reasonable position that our union had put forward since March 2010,” said Wayne Fraser, the Steelworkers’ director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada who was the union’s chief negotiator during bargaining with Vale.

“By refusing to agree to this reasonable position and instead adhering to its unlawful conduct, Vale prolonged the suffering and uncertainty for families in our community. The OLRB’s ruling should give Vale pause to consider the hardship inflicted on these families,” Fraser said.

“We are confident that the board’s decision will help bring about the reinstatement of these workers through the arbitration process,” Rick Bertrand added.

“In the meantime, we invite Vale to reinstate these workers while the process runs its course,” Bertrand said. “It would be the decent thing to do and it would be a welcome departure from Vale’s pattern of antagonistic behaviour.”

“Since taking over Inco Ltd. in 2006, Vale has provoked unprecedented labour disputes, attacked working standards, damaged labour relations, slashed jobs, and announced harmful plant closures,” said Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers’ National Director for Canada.

Last December, the OLRB found that Vale committed unfair labor practices by unlawfully denying a union representative access to company workplaces.

An Industrial Inquiry Commission appointed by the Newfoundland and Labrador government to investigate an 18-month strike at Voisey’s Bay found that Vale’s “behaviour demonstrates disrespect for the role of a bargaining agent.”

“The time is overdue for Vale to reconsider its entire approach to labour relations and its troubling behaviour that has harmed working families and communities,” Neumann said.

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Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5950;
Wayne Fraser, USW District 6 Director, 416-243-8792, 416-577-4045;
Rick Bertrand, USW Local 6500 President, 705-675-3381;
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, 416-544-5966,