Thompson Manitoba Workers settle difficult contract

THOMPSON — The nearly 1,100 members of the United Steelworkers union in Thompson have ratified a three-year contract with Vale Ltd.

Workers will receive a salary increase of 7.5 per cent over three years as well as pension improvements and cost of living allowances, the union said Friday.

The deal includes hiring clauses meant to help workers laid off when the nickel miner — the former Inco Ltd. — shuts down its Thompson smelting and nickel refining plant permanently in 2015.

The northern Manitoba community is one of Vale’s key nickel mining areas in Canada, along with Sudbury in northern Ontario and Voisey’s Bay in eastern Labrador.

“This is a great day for our Manitoba operations and for Vale in Canada,” said John Pollesel, chief operating officer for the Brazilian mining giant’s North Atlantic region.

“We are very pleased to have a new agreement in place that our employees support — this result is good for the entire community of Thompson and bodes well for the sustainability of our operations in Manitoba.”

USW Local 6166 president Murray Nychyporuk said the union won some improvements in the contract, though it still faces lost jobs as Vale scales down its Manitoba operations.

“Obviously, the gains we have made are bittersweet, given Vale’s plans to close our smelter and refinery in 2015, eliminating 500 jobs,” Nychyporuk said.

“However, we were able to negotiate new language to try to mitigate the impact on our members.”