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NEWS: Strike against Vale in Sudbury may end

The 3,100 workers of Local 6500 of the United Steelworkers have been on strike against Vale in Sudbury since July 2009.

There are now media reports that the strike may end after a union vote on the terms of a new agreement.

What are the issues?

The April 2010 issue of Report on Business magazine reported that, “A (Vale Inco) strategy workshop held a month before the (July 2009) walkout complained that mining costs in Sudbury are 50% to 100% higher than corresponding ‘world-class mines’. The report from the workshop said it now costs Vale between $4 and $5 to produce a pound of nickel. That cost, it said, should be lowered to the $2.50 level. Assessing Sudbury and costs in the world-class mines, the document said, ‘The differences are largely in numbers of direct employees’.”

“(In Sudbury), Vale (also) wanted to end the Inco defined pension plan and move to a less onerous defined contribution plan, such as the one Vale miners at Voisey’s Bay have.”

“Next on the list of changes was a reduction of the profit-sharing plan known as the nickel bonus…”

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “The key terms of the agreement remain unclear. (Steelworkers spokesperson Wayne) Fraser would not say whether the deal his executive is recommending includes any concessions, such as a nickel bonus rollback or a shift to a defined contribution plan.”

Vale’s CEO had said last year that the Sudbury operations were “not sustainable” unless workers accepted major wage and benefit concessions.

All this from a company that made $4.2 billion in profits in 2007-08, and that has $21 billion in current assets.

And all this from the company that has created the expectation of jobs and prosperity for the people of Long Harbour through the destruction of their freshwater lake.

Sandy Pond

Sandy Pond

Vale started constructing a nickel processing plant at Long Harbour in Newfoundland in April 2009. The $2.2 billion plant – to be completed in 2013 – is intended to process nickel from the company’s operations in Voisey’s Bay and dump approximately 400,000 tonnes of tailings annually into Sandy Pond, a 30-hectare freshwater lake.

This destruction of Sandy Pond is possible because of the ‘Schedule 2′ exemption in the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations of the federal Fisheries Act.

For information on the Council of Canadians campaign against Schedule 2 and the destruction of Sandy Pond, please go to http://canadians.org/water/issues/TIAs/sandy-pond.html.