Sunday, 11 July 2010

Workers Win (Local 6500 vs VALE INCO)

They say nobody wins in a strike and certainly after a year the workers will never regain the income they lost and the company will never regain it's lost production, and in this case the extra expenses incurred on scabs and security to pretend they were operating normally.

But we have to look a lot further than that in this case, to the objectives of both sides, to declare a winner.

The objective of the Brazilian based VALE was to bring their Sudbury operations in line with their operations in third world developing countries, by dictating rather than negotiating a concessions only contract, and in the process break the workers union.

They clearly failed in that goal. Although it took a year long strike they were finally forced to negotiate and realize that Sudbury is not Brazil or Indonesia. The workers proved their solidarity ending their strike stronger than before and a whole new cadre of union activists were created.

The workers struck for a "fair deal" and negotiated a contract that included some gains and was a far cry from the original dictated terms of the company. The deal included cost of living increases to keep up with inflation as well as additional increases raising their real incomes. It did include some changes to the bonus system but much less than originally proposed, and while it included a new pension system for new hires it was much improved from the original proposal, and there were also improvements to the pension plan for current employees. On top of that was a signing bonus and substantial early retirement incentives to avoid layoffs. It is an agreement that while clearly not a "good deal", under the circumstances can be called a "fair deal".

It was unfortunate that it took a year long strike, with it's subsequent loss of production, to teach VALE that it has to respect their Sudbury workforce and negotiate with them rather than dictate to them, if they expect to operate in this country.

And the workers, and their union, now stronger than ever, have five years to prepare and save up for the next round of negotiations where they can build on the gains in this contract. Hopefully VALE will have learned their lesson and it will not require another year long strike before they start to negotiate. There may even be hope that a new respectful relationship with their Sudbury workers can be built during these five years.

The Fifth Column again congratulates the members of Local 6500 on their solidarity.

An Activist's Viewpoint

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