Wednesday, August 26, 2009
VALE INCO DECISION NOT SURPRISING:
Vale Inco seems to be charging ahead with its seat-of-the-pants training scheme in hopes of restarting at least some production at their Ontario mines and smelters. To say the least this is a chancy ploy. There are indeed ex-workers amongst the non-union personnel who were involved in production for a varying number of years. Consider this for a moment. Too few years ie if you were an Einstein of ass-kissing, and you are still green. Too many means you were promoted so long ago that you can remember mining techniques from the neolithic but nothing very recent. Let alone the fact that those with any direct experience of production will be expected to train managerial neophytes chop-chop. In others words a situation of large moving machinery and potentially dangerous materials that no sensible person would care to be around.
Here from the pages of the Sudbury Star is the most recent union response to this reckless idea. The following came to Molly's attention, as usual, from the strike support site Fair Deal Now.
Union angry, but not surprised, by Vale Inco's decision to resume some production:
Posted By Carol Mulligan/The Sudbury Star
United Steelworkers Local 6500 president John Fera says he was disappointed and angry - but not surprised - about Vale Inco Ltd.'s announcement it intends to resume partial operations at its striking Sudbury plants.
Vale Inco's John Pollesel, president of production services and support for Canada/UK Operations and general manager of Ontario operations, sent an e-mail to employees Tuesday telling them of the company's decision.
"Training of selected employees is beginning this week to facilitate the process and help us to continue supplying customers, generating cash flow and providing meaningful employment for staff," he said.
Fera said it was "putting it mildly" to say he was disappointed in the Brazilian-owned subsidiary of Vale SA and its chief executive officer, Roger Agnelli.
What really angers him is the effort the company is apparently putting into getting some plants running again instead of trying to get back to the bargaining table with striking production and maintenance workers.
The union and the mining company bargained for more than three months to try to reach a collective agreement, but Vale Inco's settlement offer was rejected by 85 per cent of the Steelworkers who voted on it.
Fera said he found out about Vale Inco's intent to resume work at some plants when he met Tuesday morning with Pollesel about the strike protocol that had been hammered out between USW and the company in court.
Vale Inco spokesman Steve Ball said the decision was made based on what is best for the company and to ensure there is work for 1,200 management, staff and members of USW Local 2020 during the labour dispute.
The plan is to resume some scale of operation at Coleman and Garson mines, and crush ore from them at Clarabelle Mill.
Copper and precious metals will be extracted and concentrated from the ore and then sold, said Ball. The nickel will not be processed.
There are no plans at this point to operate the Copper Cliff smelter, he said.
Fera said Vale Inco's plan to restart operations on a limited scale has him questioning the position that has been its mantra for several months - that the company must remain "cash-positive in all business cycles."
The union leader said this move makes him question that logic.
Fera challenges how it is "cash-positive" to produce copper that is selling for about $2.70 a pound when nickel is selling for $9.
Ball wouldn't reveal any figures, but he said precious metals sell for considerably more than copper. The goal is to have some revenue coming in, at least enough to keep the people in the plants employed.
Vale is also looking at bringing in a small number of other workers to run operations, said Ball.
Nickel Belt and Sudbury Nickel Belt MPs Claude Gravelle and Glenn Thibeault were quick to condemn Vale Inco for its decision.
They warn about the dangers of running potentially environmentally dangerous plants with inexperienced workers.
"This does nothing to help resolve the current dispute," said Thibeault in a written statement.
"This is a total slap in the face to the Steelworkers union and it's hard-working members."
Thibeault and Gravelle are again calling on the Harper Conservatives to release details of the agreement Vale signed with Investment Canada after acquiring Inco close to three years ago.
Gravelle said he is also concerned for the health and safety of non-unionized staff personnel, who will be tackling new jobs with minimal training.
"This is a big mistake by Vale," said Gravelle. "I worked at Inco for 34 years and I can tell you that a few days of training for replacement workers is not enough to keep people safe underground."
One of the more interesting points raised by the above article is that Vale Inco and the Canadian government have basically made a secret agreement governing the takeover of Inco. Perish forbid that our dear beloved comrade leader Sneaky Stevie Harper could ever be accused of being secretive or hiding anything from either Parliament or the Canadian public. We, of course, would never believe such a thing of our Dear Leader, the heir of the Great Leader 'Brian Il Sung'. Deception is as far away from their benevolent and glorious concern for the welfare of the people as the edge of the universe is from Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. Or do I miss something here ? Could it be that such a agreement should be in public view so the public can see exactly what has been promised ? Is it possible that an audit of at least the members of the present Cabinet to see if they have any investment connections to Vale Inco or any of its subsidiaries is in order ? It seems to this little cat that the Canadian public has a right to know about potential conflicts of interest and that secret agreements are not the way that government business should be done.