Steel VP resigns in union spat – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – February 11, 2013)

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

The executive board of United Steelworkers Local 6500 will decide in the next few weeks about appointing someone as the local’s vice-president, after the man elected to the post eight months ago quit the position last month.

Denis Theriault tendered his resignation to the union Jan. 18, saying he couldn’t serve the membership due to “opposing ideology and philosophy” with other union executives.

Theriault has returned to his duties as surface training inspector at Vale’s Copper Cliff Smelter Complex, concluding he wasn’t able “to build or foster a good working relationship with the group that’s there,” he said when contacted by The Star.

Theriault won the vice-presidency in April, after defeating incumbent Patrick Veinot. Veinot was appointed VP in 2010 after president John Fera retired, vice-president Rick Bertrand moved up to president and the executive appointed Veinot VP.

Theraiult said he wasn’t part of a slate of candidates running against Bertrand, Veinot and others last year, although he put his name forward “as an alternative with a group of people. We weren’t a full slate.” He was the only one of the six elected.

He said tried to build over time a better relationship with Bertrand and the executive, “and it just wasn’t happening.”

That prompted his resignation.

“It was definitely a really hard decision because obviously you’ve got the majority of the membership that put their confidence in me.”

He said it wasn’t clear by what plurality he defeated Veinot, because the results of the 2012 elections were not posted.

In an email in response to questions from The Star, Bertrand said Theriault defeated Veinot by fewer than 130 votes.

Bertrand also said in the email he was surprised Theriault would resign “eight months after an election and discussing our commitment to the union and to work together as a united group.”

Theriault began with Inco, now Vale, in 1997, and got involved with the local 18 months later. He became plant steward at the smelter and progressed to committee-man, the next level of stewardship that oversees grievances from the smelter, making sure they are brought forward “to the Steel Hall.”

He worked on the local’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee and was picket co-captain at the smelter gate during USW Local 6500’s 2003 strike against Inco.

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