The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
United Steelworkers was claiming a major victory and enjoying an early Christmas after Vale Ltd. was convicted of unfair labour practice in what the union calls a landmark decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Board chair Bernard Fishbein ruled Thursday that Vale unlawfully denied USW Local 6500 vice-president Patrick Veinot access to Vale workplaces after the company fired him during the union’s year-long strike against the company.
Vale said it had the authority to fire Veinot, and eight other Steelworkers, for bad conduct on picket lines and in the community, but USW challenged that at the labour board.
One Steelworker retired immediately after the strike ended July 8, 2010. An OLRB tribunal is currently reviewing evidence presented by the union and the company in a separate matter. In that case, the union is asking an arbitrator be appointed to rule on the eight dismissals, including Veinot’s.
Fishbein had harsh words for Vale in his ruling Thursday.
“I think the message Vale Inco has sought to communicate is cold and hard (regardless of its precise motivations) and I conclude 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’).”
Vale spokeswoman Angie Robson said the company believes “our actions with respect to this matter were appropriate, however, we acknowledge the decision and will comply with the order as outlined by the board.”
Veinot was elated Thursday night after learning about the OLRB ruling and said he was fielding dozens of phone calls Friday morning from members and company employees, congratulating him on the ruling.
Veinot chairs the local’s grievance committee, which often meets with members in their workplaces. Veinot has not been allowed on Vale property for almost a year and a half. He has met off-site several times with company representatives.
Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said it is often necessary through the grievance procedure to visit workplaces to enforce the union’s collective agreement.
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