Steelworkers have won a major victory against mining company Vale at the Ontario Labour Relations Board. During the union’s year-long strike in 2010, Vale banned USW Local 6500 Vice-President Patrick Veinot from its property, thereby denying members access to him on company property. In a stinging rebuke to the company, the OLRB found that Vale’s conduct was unlawful.
The board has ordered that the company cease and desist.
OLRB Chair Bernard Fishbein wrote: “I think the message Vale Inco has sought to communicate is cold and hard (regardless of its precise motivations) and I conclude that there has been a substantial interference both in the administration of the Union and its representation of employees (or in the words of the Canada Labour Relations Board that have ‘the effect of undercutting or weakening the union’).”
“Our membership welcomes the Vice President back to their workplaces to perform his duties on their behalf and so doI,” said Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand, a long-time colleague and associate of Veinot. As Vice-President, Veinotchairs the important Local 6500 grievance committee, meeting with grievors and union stewards on company propertyto work through the grievance procedure and enforce the collective agreement.
Like eight others fired because of alleged strike-related conduct, Veinot was discharged from employment during the strike. The matter of the discharged strikers forms the core of a separate proceeding before the OLRB.“The USW eagerly awaits release of the decision on the company’s failure to make every reasonable effort to make acollective agreement – the bad faith bargaining complaint,” said Steelworkers Canadian director Ken Neumann. In thatcase the union is asking the OLRB to direct that Vale allow the discharges to be heard by an independent arbitrator who can reinstate the employees to employment if the company fails to establish proper cause for their discharges.