Labour board rules against fired Sudbury Steelworkers – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – September 24, 2013)

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

Provincial arbitrator William Kaplan has ruled against three Steelworkers fired during the union’s year-long strike against Vale Ltd.

As a result, they won’t be getting their jobs back. USW Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said the three men – former local vice-president Patrick Veinot, current treasurer Jason Patterson and former member Michael French – won’t be rehired by the company.

The three were dismissed in January 2010 during the union’s strike against Vale after company officials said they violated Vale’s code of conduct when an incident occurred in the community.

A striking Steelworker who crossed the picket line and went back to work was accosted by the three members. Criminal charges were laid against the three because of the incident, although Veinot and Patterson were cleared of any wrongdoing.

French was convicted and was forced to write a letter of apology to the victim. The union received the decision on the workers’ fate Friday, said Bertrand. “It’s been a tough few days.” He and his members are “all shocked, outraged and very disappointed” with Kaplan’s decision, contained in his 73-page ruling, said Bertrand.

“We just don’t think it’s the right decision,” said Bertrand.

Veinot had 23 years with the company, Patterson had 17 or 18, and French had 22 years with the former Inco Ltd.

USW intends to appeal the decision, calling for a judicial review of it, said Bertrand.

“I’m floored, I am so shocked, I am outraged,” said Bertrand on Monday.

He would not say whether Patterson will be able to retain his job with the union since he no longer works for Vale.

French has been working out of town, said Bertrand.

The last three and a half years has been very hard on Steelworkers fired during the strike, especially Veinot, Patterson and French, whose arbitrations took the longest.

In all, nine people were fired during the strike, the first labour dispute in which the nickel giant operated its mines, mill and smelter with replacement workers.

One fired worker retired at the end of the strike, two returned to work at Vale and three chose to work somewhere else.

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