Fired Vale striker gets his job back – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – December 13, 2012)

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

The first miner fired during the year-long strike by United Steelworkers against Vale has been reinstated to his position at Vale’s Coleman Mine.

Ron Breault was fired by the mining company in September 2009, two months after about 3,000 members of USW Local 6500 in Sudbury and Local 6200 in Port Colborne went on strike.

Arbitrator Janice Johnston released her decision Wednesday. She ruled Breault should get his job back, with full seniority and benefits, and that he be awarded about 19 months of back pay.

Brian Shell, the lawyer representing USW and Breault, said Johnston gave Breault a 30-day suspension because of “some words he spoke on the picket line.” But she ruled firing Breault was too severe a penalty. USW Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said Breault was happy and relieved to get his job back.

Breault happened to be standing outside the Steel Hall at Brady Street when Bertrand called him to tell him the good news. Bertrand said Breault and his union knew he was innocent of allegations of misconduct, for which Vale fired him during the strike.

Vale officials have insisted for years they had the right to fire employees whom they determined had breached the company’s code of conduct.

When contacted Wednesday, Vale spokeswoman Angie Robson issued a statement.

“Vale acknowledges the decision of the arbitrator in this case,” said Robson.

“Although we stand by our view that Mr. Breault’s conduct warranted discipline — something the arbitrator concluded as well — we will follow through on the decision as directed.”

In all, nine employees were fired for misconduct during the strike. Steelworker John Landry retired after 34 years with the company at the end of the strike. An arbitrator ruled earlier this year that Vale had to give Mike Courchesne his job back.

Three others fired — Brian Miller, Dan Labelle and Adam Cowie — found other employment.

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