Thursday, September 24, 2009

Last Tuesday striking workers took their campaign against Vale Inco into the corporate heartland of Bay Street in downtown Toronto as they rallied outside offices where an union representative from Brasil who sits as a token labour representative on the Vale Inco Board of Directors made their case inside. The token labour rep, appointed by Brasil's social democratic government has, of course, no real influence on Board decisions. It was, however, a good opportunity to bring the issue to the centre of power. Here's the story from the pages of the Toronto Star via the strike support site Fair Deal Now.
Inco strikers bring beefs, nickels to Bay St.:
Toronto protest aims to sway headquarters in Brazil
Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew Business Reporter
Vale Inco workers are hoping an appeal directly to the mining giant's board of directors will help bring their increasingly bitter conflict to an end.

Brazilian union leader Eduardo Pinto said yesterday that he plans to tell the company's board that it must take the ongoing strike, now more than two months old, very seriously.

"The community is fully behind these workers in this struggle. They are well-organized. They have a lot of will and I am convinced that they are going to win this battle," Pinto said in an interview.

"Vale is getting into a big fight for very little and this may not lead the company to a good outcome."

Pinto, who is a union representative on Vale's board, is also president of STEFEM, a railroad workers union in Brazil. He spoke to reporters in Toronto's financial district, as striking miners handed out leaflets and nickels to draw attention to their fight.

About 3,600 employees, largely at the company's flagship mine in Sudbury, walked off the job July 13 after rejecting the company offer for a new labour contract. The United Steelworkers union is also on strike against Vale Inco in Port Colborne and Voisey's Bay, Nfld.

The company offer would change workers' bonus structure, which is tied to nickel prices. It also offered defined contribution pension plans to newly hired workers, not the current defined-benefit plan.

Vale Inco, the second-largest mining company in the world with operations in 35 countries, said recently it plans to resume partial production at its Sudbury mine, regardless of the strike.

"This is the best thing to do for the business. We have 1,200 staff and employees who are not on strike for whom this provides an opportunity to offer meaningful employment," said Cory McPhee, spokesperson for Vale Inco.

Referring to the rally in Toronto, McPhee said: "We would prefer the time and effort be put into resolving the labour dispute. We didn't want the strike. We put forward a very fair offer that we feel helps the immediate and long-term health of the business."

Brazilian iron-ore giant Cia Vale do Rio Doce bought Inco in 2006 for $19.4 billion.

Workers say that, from 2006 to 2008, the company made more than $4 billion (U.S.) – twice as much as Inco made in the previous 10 years.

In 2007, nickel prices were above $24 a pound as demand from China boosted prices for the metal, used in everything from construction to jet engines and kitchen sinks. Prices now are in the $8-a-pound range and inventories are bulging.


rww said...

The credibility of the media on this story is really damaged by their continuous reference to the "strike at the Sudbury mine. The strike is at Vale Inco's Sudbury operations which includes numerous mines,a smelter, refinery and other processing operations. If they continuously report the story as being about a mine one would think they never even send reporters to Sudbury to cover the story. This is pretty consistent for all mainstream media reports.

Sorry for ranting here but this has really been bugging me for awhile.

mollymew said...

Please rant on. This is a free speech zone for anything but corporate spam. I think you are right in your comments. In commenting on this strike I, personally have tried to use more neutral and inclusive words such as "premises" or "facilities". Quite frankly they obviously have never "sent a reporter to Sudbury", and I doubt that they ever will...until, of course, it becomes an even bigger story in Toronto. May it happen.