Voisey's Bay workers vote to stay on picket line

Alisha Morrissey & James McLeod
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Labour

The membership of the United Steelworkers' union working at the Voisey's Bay mine site has voted unanimously to reject an offer from Vale Inco and to stay on picket lines through a seventh month.

Local president Darren Cove says the union's executive have spent the past week travelling the province polling its members on an offer from the mining company.

The membership of the United Steelworkers' union working at the Voisey's Bay mine site has voted unanimously to reject an offer from Vale Inco and to stay on picket lines through a seventh month.

Local president Darren Cove says the union's executive have spent the past week travelling the province polling its members on an offer from the mining company.

"It just goes to show you the resolve of the membership," Cove said Wednesday night on the phone from his home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. "You would expect that they would have more objections, but no."

Some workers even burned copies of the offer that were sent to them by the company at the end of last month.

The negotiators walked away from the bargaining table shaking their heads, but willing to take the company's offer to the members.

Both sides have said they're willing to go back to the table, but dates have not yet been worked out, Cove said.

Regardless, he said, the workers won't make concessions.

Negotiator Boyd Bussey said that even with such a one-sided response, talking to members was an important process.

But he said workers won't budge unless the company agrees to a couple of key points: a nickel bonus tied to the the price of nickel, and guarantees that union workers won't be replaced by contractors.

"After six months on strike, we thought it would be best if we got a new mandate," he said. "The message was clear that they're not willing to go back to work for the offer that the company has made; they want the nickel bonus, and they want to be sure that their jobs are not going to be contracted out."

And if morale at the union's meetings throughout Labrador and on the island were any indication, Cove said, they could be on picket lines for a while.

"They're not prepared to walk backwards," he said.

Meanwhile, Vale Inco has restarted production at the mine and says it will use non-striking workers to fill in at its operations in Sudbury, Ont.

Besides the Voisey's Bay employees, the strike affects Vale Inco in Port Colborne, Ont., and Sudbury.

More than 3,000 workers have been on strike since July 2009.

amorrissey@thetelegram.com jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Sudbury Labrador Port Colborne

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Recent comments

  • Jonathan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I heard that Vale Inco lost 32% (in revenue?) because of the strike. I have a feeling that if the strike continues, Vale Inco will lose even more revenue, the company will end up on the verge of bankruptcy, and Voisey's Bay mines will eventually be no more. Shows you (not-so) brave workers that selfishness doesn't pay.

  • Mike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Why should the workers get a bonus when the price of nickel rises? Will they give money back to the company when the price of nickel drops?

    If workers want to share in the profits they should buy stock in the company. Stock owners take the risk of losing money during a downturn, and get to reap the rewards during the good years. Workers should be no different. If they want the rewards, they should have to take the risk as well.

  • Jonathan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I heard that Vale Inco lost 32% (in revenue?) because of the strike. I have a feeling that if the strike continues, Vale Inco will lose even more revenue, the company will end up on the verge of bankruptcy, and Voisey's Bay mines will eventually be no more. Shows you (not-so) brave workers that selfishness doesn't pay.

  • Mike
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Why should the workers get a bonus when the price of nickel rises? Will they give money back to the company when the price of nickel drops?

    If workers want to share in the profits they should buy stock in the company. Stock owners take the risk of losing money during a downturn, and get to reap the rewards during the good years. Workers should be no different. If they want the rewards, they should have to take the risk as well.