Night shift Thursday and day shift Friday were cancelled at Vale’s Coleman Mine in Levack while the company addressed 12 work orders issued against it Thursday by the Ministry of Labour.
Six of the orders outline actions Vale must take to correct what the ministry concluded was a situation that could be harmful to employees. The other six prohibit it from resuming production until the orders are met. There are no dates for compliance on the orders, but production can’t resume until they are addressed.
The mine has essentially been out of commission since last Friday when workers detected the odour of smoke and were sent home. A job risk analysis of the situation was done and its results presented to mine employees Wednesday morning. Those workers did not have to go underground because Vale offered them the choice of going home or working on surface.
The issue became contentious when the night shift reported later Wednesday and was expected to go underground. Those employees exercised their right to refuse unsafe work as outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, says their union.
Day shift workers Thursday were presented with results of a job hazard analysis and they, too, refused to go underground. By Thursday afternoon, the ministry had issued the stop-work orders.
United Steelworkers Local 6500, the union representing Coleman workers, insists the job action is a refusal to work, a right every employee in Ontario has if he or she believes they would be in danger in their workplace. Vale has repeatedly called it a work stoppage. In the initial ministry report, it was called a work refusal.
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