Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Ontario stike against Vale Inco (see earlier story on this blog) in Sudbury and Port Colborne is now in day 3, and at least in Sudbury the strike seems to be gaining wide support from the general community, as the following story from the strikers' site Fair Deal Now tells. The story is actually a reprint from the Sudbury Star newspaper, and the strikers' site gives it an entirely different title than the one below. Check it out to see the difference.
What is encouraging is the way that both local businesses and the community at large see the Steelworkers' strike as their struggle as well. Donated coffee, bottled water, pizza and even a trailer and fire pit are just some of the items being brought to support the picket lines. No doubt financial contributions are coming in as well. See the end of the following article for the contact to donate to the strike.
This sort of solidarity is crucial if the strike is to be won, but, as I have said before, it will not be enough. Spreading solidarity actions to other communities is also vital, as the interests of the strikers are the same as those of ordinary citizens in places other than where Vale Inco is located. It is also encouraging that at least one striker (see below) isn't caught up in the idea that the 'Old Inco' was any different from the new cohort of managers. Once more corporations use the same tactics worldwide, and the strike is a "test case" to see how much they can get away with. As the strike continues it may also become plain that other tactics rather than traditional picketing will have to be used if the workers involved are to win.

'We're ready to listen'
DAY 1: Mood on the picket line ebbs and flows:
From buoyant to sombre, the mood at each picket line set up outside Vale Inco's Sudbury operations varied depending on where you went.

Common to all on Day 1 of the strike was the smoke of burning skids and a collection of donations from the community, supporting the United Steelworkers Local 6500.

Motorists honked in support at what they thought were picketers outside the Clarabelle Mine Road off Highway 144 -- but they were really Local 2020 workers, office and support staff, waiting to report to work. They were turned away at all the picket lines Monday.

The picketers were set up farther down the road and not visible to the highway traffic.

They were only letting through people listed as essential services personnel, but none had yet reported to the line.

"At this point, we're concerned for the safety of the plant. We don't want to risk anybody's safety," explained Bob Ruff, picket captain.

From behind a newly erected gate, security guards in trucks kept watch on the strikers.

"The mood is pretty upbeat here. We've got a crew going. We're comfortable. We're ready to sit it out as long as we have to," said Ruff.

"When they're ready to come talk to us, we're ready to listen."

The most boisterous line was outside Stobie Mine, where strikers gathered in a parkette, using the slab from a marble marker as a table for a barbecue and their coffee mugs.

The landscaped welcome area was built to recognize the removal and replacement of 3,000 shaft grids in July 2007.

"Supervisor Larry Lauzon challenged the qualified employees of the Stobie Mine to complete this task in house and the challenge was met with success," the inscription reads.

Three generations of Dan Bertrand's family have worked in that mine.

How long does he think this strike will last? Bertrand shook his head.

"I'm trying to be a realist about it," said the heavy machinist, who has been with the company for three years.

Despite worrying he might not have a job when the strike's done, Bertrand, a father of two, voted in favour of a strike.

Of the local's 3,300 workers, 85% rejected the company's offer in favour of a strike.

"I've got a family, I've got kids. But it has got to be done," he said. "This company has taken the community for a ride."

Gerry Rowlands has 35 years with the company, all but two of them in the Stobie Mine.

"I'm hoping it will be settled by the end of the month," he said.

"I've heard people comment that the Inco of old wasn't like this. Well, I've been here long enough. This is the Inco of old --it's just got a new name on it. Same thing. There's no change. Personally, they want a lot."

Rowlands says the union would have voted in a status quo contract.

"But they want concessions. It's not going to happen," he said. "I'm hoping we stick it out. I'm not going to vote for a contract with concessions because it hurts everyone in the long run."

When he hired on as a student in the 1970s, he earned the same pay as his dad.

"This new Inco wants to give these kids 70% (of our wages). That's not right," said Rowlands, a heavy equipment mechanic.

The Stobie's picket line donations included pizza, as well as a trailer and fire pit donated by SCR.

In Copper Cliff, Tim Hortons dropped off a vat of coffee, donuts and Culligan some water. Dire Straits' Money for Nothing blared from a car stereo.

"I wouldn't say upbeat, but everyone's getting geared up for what we have to do, for sure," said picket captain Gilles Gaudet.

"We're getting set for a long time. We're in it for a fair contract ... We've received a lot of support from people around town -- businesses and individuals. This stack of wood we have, this is one day."

Sudbury workers weren't the only ones who went on strike. Port Colborne's USW Local 6200 also went out on the line at one minute after midnight Monday morning.

"I'm very, very pleased (with) the solidarity of the three bargaining units across Canada in terms of their response to this company's attack on our collective agreement," Fraser said, including workers at Voisey's Bay.

"These three strikes are very, very important to all of our membership."

Miners at the company's Voisey's Bay nickel-copper operations have voted to authorize a strike, which likely will take effect by the end of July.

That local is in the process of deciding what its going to shut down, he explained.

"It's an indication how bad the collective agreement was," said Fraser. "Hopefully, there's a clear message to Vale to reconsider their positon at the bargaining table."

Vale Inco did not report any trouble on the lines.

"There is nothing new from the company. When we're ready to communicate again, we will," said Steve Ball, Vale Inco spokesperson in Sudbury. "I say that in a respectful way, but we're not going to be providing daily updates."
The following part of the article tells of rumours that are, of course, fantastical. What is not fantastical, however, is that the company would love it and that the present Canadian government of 'Sneaky Stevie' would actually be quite happy to issue such work permits. It's just that they know plainly that they couldn't get away with it. -Molly

He did reply to one rumour that has been running rampant in Sudbury -- that the company has hundreds of Brazilians put up in local hotels ready to helicopter in to work the mines.

In fact, on Monday morning, the wife of a miner called in with information that more than 1,000 Brazilians had been trained by NORCAT.

A picketer on the line, admitted in a kind of sheepish way that he has been looking at strangers in the city, wondering if they might be from Brazil.

"That is the most bizarre rumour that I've ever heard," said Ball.

"It has been going on in Sudbury for the past four months. It's absolutely insane that people would think that's true. How can I stress that anymore. Do you think the government would provide 500 work Visas? That we would put them up in hotels?" ( Only in your dreams guys, only in your dreams-Molly)
* * *
A reader telephoned The Sudbury Star asking where she could make a financial donation to the union. Dave Gordon is the contact. Call 675-3381, ext. 234.

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