Premier Danny Williams said his announcement of an inquiry to settle the Voisey’s Bay strike is a promise — not a threat.
Williams said Friday the provincial government will have an industrial inquiry committee ready to go in two weeks should Vale Inco fail to reach an agreement with 130 striking workers at its Labrador nickel mine.
The premier said the potentially embarrassing public disclosures on motives and actions that are possible under an inquiry should prove an incentive for the two sides to reach a deal.
“I think any time anybody calls an inquiry, there’s some risk involved,” he said. “An inquiry is a disclosure process, and there could be some risk to the company, there could be some risk to the union. You know, this process has gone on for 14 months, and enough is enough.”
Williams said the provincial government has done everything it could up to this point to get a deal done short of resorting to an inquiry. The premier added the provincially appointed mediator, Bill Wells, was “hours” away from achieving a deal between the two sides.
“He thought the deal was there. There should have been a deal there. There’s no reason why there wasn’t a deal, and both parties walked away. So he wasn’t attributing blame to one side, but he basically was saying there’s no consensus,” the premier said. “There’s no will on either or both of the parties to come to an agreement. That’s just unacceptable. This is a major strike. It’s affecting a lot of communities, a lot of people’s lives, and it needs to get resolved.”
"You know, this process has gone on for 14 months, and enough is enough.” - Danny Williams
Williams said he didn’t want to prejudge any recommendations that might come out of an inquiry, or whether the government would legislate the union back to work.
“(The inquiry) may come back and recommend something that’s not now in legislation. They may ask for something more. If that’s the case, then government may stand back and say, ‘Do we want to amend legislation? How intrusive do we want to be in respect to the bargaining process?’ Because that’s always a delicate situation for government. You allow the parties to go to the process and work things out and hope it works out.”
Williams said an inquiry is not an action the government would take lightly, but is has been considered over the last few months.
“These things, you kind of hope that every day they’re going to resolve or parties are going to come to their senses on it, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened here, and I think this is probably, hopefully, the catalyst that they need.”
The premier said the announcement of an inquiry is not a threat.
“No, it’s a promise. In two weeks’ time, get it resolved or if it’s going to go, call the inquiry and we’ll do that forthwith.”