Friday, July 23, 2010
CANADIAN LABOUR NEWFOUNDLAND:
THE FORGOTTEN STRIKE:
With all the hoopla in the media recently about the end of the Vale Inco Sudbury strike it seems that something has been forgotten. Ontario was not the only place where the USW were on strike against Vale Inco. Soon after the Sudbury local went out they were followed by workers of Local 9508 at Voisey's Bay in Labrador. This strike continues as the following item from the CBC details.
Striking Labrador miners vow not to give up
Workers from the Voisey's Bay mine in Labrador have been on strike for a year and some vow to remain on the picket lines until they get the deal they want.
Contract negations between the United Steelworkers Union, which represents the striking workers, and Vale broke off late Tuesday afternoon.
Neil Power is among the Labrador workers, who've been on the picket lines for the last 355 days. He said Vale employees in Sudbury, who recently reached a deal to end their year-long strike, gave up too easily.
On Thursday, Power told CBC News he's prepared to stay on the picket line for another year, or two if necessary.
"We can't give up on what our brothers and sisters have fought for in the past and there is a lot of issues in the past that never got resolved and, apparently, they are still having a hard time trying to get it resolved," said Power.
Two weeks ago, more than 3,000 Vale workers in Ontario agreed to a new labour deal. Among other things, the workers will get a raise and a considerable signing bonus.
Striking workers in Labrador told CBC News they stand behind the union that's trying to hash out a deal for them, though they admit the last year hasn't been easy. Less income has meant a modest Christmas and no summer vacations. Some of the workers said its been a struggle to cope.
On Thursday, Bob Carter, Vale's manager of corporate affairs in Newfoundland and Labrador, said talks are not scheduled to resume.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2010/07/22/nl-voisey-bay-strikers-722.html#ixzz0uYV8wnRp
Vale is acting in a particularily arrogant way with its Newfoundland employees, refusing to concede even the reduced bonus that they setlled with the Steelworkers in Ontario. This has led Newfoundland labour to ask for provincial intervention in the strike. How kindly the politicians will look upon this request is anyone's guess, though it should be noted that if the situation sparks enough resentment about the tyrannical "outsiders" in Vale's management that the Province might be forced to act. Otherwise I have my doubts. Here's the story of the appeal from the St. John's Telegram.
Federation calls on government to support Voisey’s Bay strikers
The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour wants the province to take immediate action to support striking Voisey’s Bay workers.
In a letter to Premier Danny Williams Thursday, federation president Lana Payne urged government to send a clear message to global mining giant Vale that enough is enough.
“I have called on the premier to bring an end to this strike by sending the matter to binding arbitration before it reaches its one-year anniversary, which is a shameful indictment of a company that has attempted to erode labour rights in our province. I have also reiterated the need for legislation banning the use of scab labour,” she said in a release.
“It is clear, and it has been clear for some time, that this employer is not interested in negotiating a fair collective agreement. This company is only interested in using its power and wealth to bring the workers and its union to their knees by starving them out. The question is: Are we as a society going to allow that to happen in our province?”
The workers, represented by United Steel Workers 9508, have been on the picket line since last August.
Contract talks between Vale and the union broke off Tuesday afternoon and no talks have been rescheduled.
Payne said the strike is at an impasse.
“These workers through their union have attempted to push back against the excessive concessions being demanded by this global mining giant. They have being trying to get the best deal possible for their members and in doing so have had to take on one of the wealthiest mining companies in the world — a company that is stepping on long-standing labour rights such as the right to free collective bargaining and breeding discontent in our communities by using scab labour.”
According to Payne, the strike has exposed legislative gaps with respect to how the labour rights of working people are protected.
This company has been imposing anti-union tactics the likes of which we have not seen in at least a generation in our province, she said.
“As President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL), I believe our government must send a message to Vale and other corporations that they don’t get to starve people out. They don’t make the rules. Governments do. Societies do.” ( Hopefully more of the latter-Molly )
The Newfoundland Federation of Labour is actually acting in support of previous appeals to the provincial government on the part of Local 9508 of the USW representing workers at Voisey's Bay. Here's the original letter to the Premier from Wayne Fraser of the USW. Published in the USW strike support site Fair Deal Now.
Letter to Premier Danny Williams from USW District 6 Director Wayne Fraser
Published: July 22, 2010
Posted in: News, Release
July 21, 2010
Honourable Danny Williams
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Office of the Premier
Confederation Building, East Block
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, NL
Dear Premier Williams,
The United Steelworkers union (USW) and the members of USW Local 9508 are requesting your immediate intervention in the second-class treatment of Newfoundland and Labrador working families by Brazil-based transnational Vale.
As you know, members of USW Local 9508 have been on strike at Vale’s Voisey’s Bay operations for nearly one year – since August 1, 2009.
It is indisputable that our union and its members at Voisey’s Bay – like their colleagues in Ontario who recently ended their year-long strike – have shown flexibility and a willingness to compromise to achieve a fair collective agreement with Vale.
But Vale continues to take a more heavy-handed approach with its Newfoundland and Labrador workers. The company is demanding that workers in this province accept an inferior bonus system and collective agreement than the one negotiated earlier this month with 3,000 workers in Ontario.
The latest round of negotiations broke off Tuesday, July 20, after Vale refused to offer Voisey’s Bay workers the same bonus system it negotiated with employees in Sudbury and Port Colborne. Vale also refused to discuss other outstanding issues unless the Voisey’s Bay workers agreed to an inferior bonus plan.
Mr. Premier, we trust you and your Government will agree it is unacceptable that a massively profitable foreign corporation such as Vale would treat Newfoundland and Labrador workers as second-class employees compared to their colleagues in Ontario.
We also trust you will use every means at your disposal to ensure Vale treats the working families of Newfoundland and Labrador with the respect and dignity they deserve.
I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss this urgent matter with you. I can be contacted by telephone at 416-243-8792 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Steelworkers District 6