Slow pace frustrates [Sudbury] union – by Star staff (Sudbury Star – June 6, 2012)

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

First they were the Fired Nine, then one of them retired at the end of a year-long strike by United Steelworkers Local 6500 against Vale Ltd. Then they were the Fired Eight, and arbitration dates were set for eight Steelworkers fired by Vale during the July 2009-July 2010 labour dispute.

Now, arbitrations are only being held for seven Steelworkers after one of them took a job in Red Lake and decided not to proceed with arbitration. Individual arbitrators, agreed upon by USW Local 6500 and Vale, are hearing the cases of the seven fired workers. But the matters are proceeding slowly through the process, said local president Rick Bertrand.

The arbitrations are being heard in the order in which the men were fired for what Vale says was improper behaviour on picket lines or in the community during the acrimonious labour dispute.

Ron Breault’s case was heard April 25 and 26, but couldn’t be concluded, so another day has been set aside for Sept. 6. Mike Courchesne’s dismissal was the subject of two days of arbitration, May 1 and 2, but the case couldn’t be concluded so a third day is scheduled for June 25.

Adam Cowie’s dismissal was to be heard by an arbitrator May 17 and June 14 and 15, but Cowie has decided to remain in the northern community because “he’s happy with the company he’s working for now,” said Bertrand.

The union president expressed some frustration with the slow pace of the arbitrations.

“We think they should be dealt with and we really feel they should be back at work,” Bertrand said, “but, unfortunately, it’s still ongoing and we’re going to (have to) wait until he arbitration is done.”

Bertrand said he couldn’t comment more on the arbitrations because both USW Local 6500 and Vale have agreed the media should not be allowed to cover the proceedings.

The results will “come out” after the arbitrators make their decisions on the cases.

For now, Bertrand and his members just want to get the hearings over with.

The Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled earlier this year that Vale had failed to make every reasonable effort to reach a collective agreement during the strike and, by doing so, had not bargained in good faith.

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