IOC suspends 150

Ashley
Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Mining company issues three-day penalties to workers who missed shifts over holiday season, union confirms

The Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) took a stand against worker absenteeism over the holidays, issuing three-day suspensions to an estimated 150 workers, apparently over attendance issues.

The Telegram investigated after receiving an email from a mine employee.

The action is being tied to efforts to reduce operating costs and maximize productivity, given the challenge of current iron ore prices. That includes making sure workers are punching in and out as per schedule.

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In a mid-December memo titled “Absenteeism during the holidays,” IOC executives directly warned their employees about missing work.

“In supporting IOC’s survival during the most challenging time we’ve seen in decades, you are supporting the livelihoods of an entire community of family and friends,” it stated.

Workers were told to expect suspensions if they played hooky.

“Employees who miss a shift at this critical time of year must understand that this choice will have an even greater negative impact on the business given the peak vacation at this time. Employees who miss shifts will be subject to disciplinary measures which, more likely than not, will result in a minimum of a three-day suspension.”

United Steelworkers Local 5795 president Ron Thomas issued a heavy sigh when asked Tuesday about the memo and suspensions.

“Yeah,” Thomas said. “We’ve been dealing with it.”

Pressed for a number, he estimated upwards of 150 people were affected, claiming the majority of suspensions were not justified.

“We have one gentleman that got five years in, just got a letter from the company congratulating him for perfect attendance and (being) a great employee. The next week he got the stomach flu, called in sick and did everything the way he was supposed to and he was given a three-day suspension.”

Thomas described the case of another union member who had an allergic reaction while on the job, was put off work for a few days by a doctor, but was issued a suspension by the company when they missed their scheduled shift.

We even had a gentleman with permission from his own supervisor to have the day off and he was suspended. Local 5795 president Ron Thomas

“We even had a gentleman with permission from his own supervisor to have the day off and he was suspended,” Thomas said.

He suggested one in 50 suspensions would be cases wherein workers actually did not follow company protocol.

“And if there was discipline that was warranted, even their own policy would state that you start off with a verbal warning, then it goes to a written, then there’s a day to three-day suspension. Right off the bat, they just jumped to the three-day suspension,” he said.

Employees were told to go home when they showed up for their next shift, he said, or they received a letter in the mail with notice of their suspension.

Thomas said the union has filed grievances on individual cases, in addition to a policy grievance filed when the company’s pre-holiday memo was first issued. But he expressed little hope of immediate resolution.

“We’re right now at probably 3,000 grievances,” he said of outstanding issues with the company.

In January 2015, the province’s New Democratic Party issued a statement on what it referred to as “worsening labour relations” at the IOC operation, based on a stated 2,500 outstanding union grievances.

“If they’re going to shut down, they’re going to shut down,” Thomas said. “It is an unfortunate thing, but what really upsets me is when they go about their business to do something that is not cost savings, it goes against government standards and it goes against our collective agreement and they’re just actually doing whatever they want to do.”

The Telegram tried to contact IOC, by phone and email, but there was no response as of deadline.

IOC employs about 2,500 people. The operation is managed by Rio Tinto Iron Ore and is a joint venture between Rio Tinto (58.7 per cent), Mitsubishi (26.2 per cent) and the Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Income Corp. (15.1 per cent).

Organizations: New Democratic Party, Rio Tinto, Mitsubishi Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Income

Geographic location: Rio Tinto Iron Ore

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Recent comments

  • former employee
    January 09, 2016 - 20:45

    I am happy that IOC has finally grown some balls and taken some action against the union employees who actually deserve it. To suspend employees with honest medical notes, well that is SHAME ON IOC. I know first hand how IOC has grown their balls. Some people deserve what they get, but there truly are some hard working honest employees out there that get and got shit on. Seems to me like the hard working honest employee gets the boot out the door for an honest human mistake which was not intended, but the ones who don't give a shit and don't want to work get protected to the ends of the earth.

  • Jack
    January 06, 2016 - 12:53

    These blatant abuse of Newfoundland and Labrador's labour laws in the hands of IOC's main owners, Australian based Rio Tinto and Japanese based Mitsubishi, definitely illustrate the consequences of foreigners controlling Canadian companies, and their unjust suspensions against employees missing shifts due to Doctor Note backed up medical excuses prove it.

    • dave k
      January 07, 2016 - 07:28

      someone's had a glass of union kool aid

  • Man
    January 06, 2016 - 12:36

    Union employees doesn't want to work anyway! That more vacations for them!

  • Jack
    January 06, 2016 - 12:27

    While I understand that IOC is going through some rough times, its still no excuse whatsoever to punish employees for taking time off due to legitimate medical excuses with medical evidence and doctor's notes to prove it. Due to IOC's blatant disregards for Newfoundland and Labrador's labour laws, including suspending employees for missing a shift due to doctor substantiated legitimate medical excuses or family related situations like a death in the family, the Newfoundland and Labrador Government should hit its Australian/Japanese co-owned company with a hefty $10,000 fine for each employee whom got an unjust suspension with proceeds going to the effected employee. That way, it will send a message that no matter the economic situation, suspending employees for missing shifts due legitimate medical excuses or family situations which are against this province's labour laws will never, ever, be tolerated. As for IOC, SHAME ON YOU for suspending employees missing shifts due to a medical reason and trying to play god.

    • dave k
      January 07, 2016 - 07:29

      yup...150 people all of a sudden got "sick" lol...give your head a shake

  • YAY
    January 06, 2016 - 12:21

    Good, about time. Some of those people need a reality check - spoiled their whole lives in Labrador and have no clue what life is really like. I hope the mine shuts down for a year or more!

  • LabradorMick
    January 06, 2016 - 09:47

    Sport but about time, I was already for my Christmas off all set up at the cabin. Then I get the call to come in on night shift as someone rang in sick. Off I go to work not happy at all only to find out that the person who was to sick to work was having a blast at his cabin. Now how is that fair that I have to work his shift over the Xmas and my own over the new year. Yes he had a sick note but wasn't to sick to party away. Sick of this dam Union protecting these scum that are making life harder for the guys that want to work and make money.

    • Sharon
      January 07, 2016 - 08:16

      Gee maybe you should get call display. It is a great thing for unwanted calls like telemarketers and unwanted employer calls! Don't complain about things you can fix yourself!

    • Sharon
      January 07, 2016 - 08:17

      Gee maybe you should get call display. It is a great thing for unwanted calls like telemarketers and unwanted employer calls! Don't complain about things you can fix yourself!

    • Sharon
      January 07, 2016 - 08:17

      Gee maybe you should get call display. It is a great thing for unwanted calls like telemarketers and unwanted employer calls! Don't complain about things you can fix yourself!

  • dave k
    January 05, 2016 - 22:38

    "He suggested one in 50 suspensions would be cases wherein workers actually did not follow company protocol." i call bullcrap!!! good job IOC!

    • Paul
      January 06, 2016 - 11:24

      I would say more like 1 in 50 did follow the rules and was actually sick. What's going to happen next Christmas they same people will ring in sick again. They have being doing it for years

  • dale
    January 05, 2016 - 22:22

    Looks like the employees are pushing their luck up there is Lab West. Better be careful boys or you could out the door pretty fast.