Sunday, August 23, 2009

It may be just sabre rattling, but Vale Inco has proceeded with its plans to train salaried workers and management personnel in production techniques- with the implicit threat of attempting to restart production despite the present strike. This action has, to say the least, angered the strikers, as the following article from Northern Life makes plain. To follow developments in the strike stay tuned to the strike support website Fair Deal Now.
Vale Inco resuming production would mean 'war': union:
If Vale Inco resumes any form of production while Steelworkers members are on strike, it would mean “war in Sudbury,” according to Wayne Fraser, director of District 6 for the United Steelworkers Union. File photo.
Aug 19, 2009
By: Ed Veilleux - Sudbury Northern Life Staff

If Vale Inco resumes any form of production while Steelworkers members are on strike, it would mean “war in Sudbury,” according to Wayne Fraser, director of District 6 for the United Steelworkers Union.

“If that (resuming production) means a war in Sudbury, it's going to be a war in Sudbury,” he said. About 3,100 members of Steelworkers Local 6500 have been on strike in the community since July 13.

Vale Inco admitted to putting on training sessions for non-unionized workers to be able to train others for various jobs with the company, as part of a “contingency plan.”

“We have started running some train-the-trainer sessions at the nickel refinery as part of our ongoing contingency plans as a result of the strike,” said Steve Ball, public affairs officer for Vale Inco.

“We're continuing to explore all of our options, including resuming some degree of operations. So we are considering all options for the business right now.”

As far as training workers to be able to operate the production side of the business, Ball repeated the company is “continuing to explore all of our options.”

The possibility of Vale Inco using newly-trained, non-unionized employees to replace striking workers on production is “pretty unrealistic in terms of the whole operation,” said Fraser. “Look at mining, smelting, milling and (the process) to get a final product out, I think it's a pretty impossible task (to replace workers).

“More importantly, we're not going to sit back and watch others do our job when we're on the picket line. Not going to happen in Sudbury.”

As far as how the union would respond, Fraser said, “we'll deal with that if and when it happens, I'll say that very loud and clear.”

During strikes, non-unionized employees for the company are typically on standby to perform maintenance work.

“To fill a hole for 3,200 trained and qualified, skilled workers is really an impossible task,” Fraser said.

Ball said as far as newly-qualified trainers teaching others, it is a “possibility.”

“Will they be training other people down the road, once we've decided and considered what our options are? That is, I guess, a possibility,” Ball said. “But, until we've made decisions on a number of options, we are just training instructors ahead of time.”

At this time, only one training session in underway, but that will depend “on the needs of the business and whatever decisions we make on the best interests of what our business needs,” Ball said.

Fraser said the important task at hand is for Vale Inco to return to bargaining with the union.

“What they need to do, instead of train people, is get back to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith. That's what they need to do.

“That's up to them, we've held the door open for them and told them that we're interested in bargaining and finding a Canadian solution for the difficulties... And they sit back with their arrogance and talk about training people.”

Ball said Vale Inco is willing to talk, when the union is willing to “accept the changes.”

“As we've said, until the Steelworkers are willing to accept the changes that are needed in our business, there will be little to talk about,” he said.

Fraser said Vale Inco, or Inco, has never operated the production side of operations during a strike, and, “they're not going to do it now.”

He said they are “rattling swords. At the end of the day it becomes almost impossible to (replace the workers).”

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