Labour leader says Voisey's Bay strike testing membership's resolve
As the striking workers of Voisey’s Bay prepare to mark its first anniversary on the picket line, the union vows to hold out “one day longer than the company.”
© Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president Lana Payne (left) and United Steelworkers Local 9508 president Darren Cove meet with reporters during a break in an emergency meeting of labour leaders Wednesday at the Holiday Inn.
During an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon of Newfoundland labour leaders, Lana Payne, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, denounced Vale’s tactics since workers went on strike Aug. 1, 2009.
“We felt it was really important to bring together as many of the leadership in the labour movement that we could get available,” she said.
“And talk about the situation in Voisey’s Bay, the challenges that this strike is posing not just to the membership of the Steelworkers, but to the entire labour movement, because this is a big and serious problem when we have a company of this size that can come in to this province and figures it can play by its rules and erode labour rights in the process, hire scab labour, and try and test at every turn the resolve of our movement,” she said.
Darren Cove, president of the striking United Steelworkers Local 9508, said the next step for the union is to find out where the membership stands.
“We did have a meeting in Goose Bay yesterday. The membership still are strong in their belief. They still stand by their union and bargaining committee, and they’re prepared to stay the course as well.”
He said the membership has told the bargaining committee to hold out “as long as it takes.”
“I hate to use any kind of analogy or anything, but they’re still telling us, ‘one day longer than the company.’”
Cove said about half of the union’s members have taken temporary employment.
“We felt it was really important to bring together as many of the leadership in the labour movement that we could get available,” Lana Payne said
“It helps boost the strike fund and it enables the members who are on the picket line every day to stay that much longer,” he said, adding members who have found work elsewhere donate their strike pay back into the strike fund, and it’s distributed to members still on the picket line.
Representatives from unions including the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees and the Public Service Alliance of Canada attended the meeting at the Holiday Inn Wednesday. Payne said she was pleased they could come at short notice.
“We’re all very concerned about what’s happening here,” she said, and noted the labour federation sent a letter to the premier last week calling on the provincial government to implement replacement worker legislation and to send the dispute to binding arbitration.
After the meeting, Payne said the unions will unveil a “plan of action” to garner support for the striking workers, but did not reveal details.
“Some of that will unfold as it’s happening, but suffice it to say we have a campaign strategy planned for the next little bit, and we’ll be carrying it out with all the support of the unions of the Federation of Labour.”