Vale, [Sudbury] union agree to work together – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – February 2, 2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

United Steelworkers Local 6500 and Vale Ltd. have agreed to conduct a joint investigation into the death of veteran miner Stephen Perry at Coleman Mine on Sunday.

Six people — three from the company and three from the union — will meet Thursday to begin work on the investigation into the fatal accident.

The shutdown at Vale’s five Sudbury mines will continue so the focus remains squarely on safety, and not on production, said Angie Robson. Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said he was happy the two sides agreed to work together.

“Hopefully, things will be much better here on in,” in terms of both safety and labour relations, said Bertrand.

Mine production was halted Sunday after Perry, 47, was killed while operating a loader at the 4,215-foot level of the Coleman shaft of the main order body at mine in Levack.

Vale vice-president Kelly Strong, the company’s head of mining and milling, and of Ontario operations, announced Monday production was suspended indefinitely while mine managers and senior personnel drafted a plan of action to operate mines safely.

Robson said Wednesday that Vale will engage employees in addressing safety concerns in facilities, while the joint investigation is being conducted.

“Today, our Worker Health and Safety Representatives returned to our mines to work together with our managers and superintendents (on) plans to address safety and manage risk on our workplace,” Robson in a statement.

“These meetings are happening not only in our mines, but across all of our surface plants and depar tments in Sudbury. We are taking time to regroup and ensure that hazards across all of our areas are managed in an effective and timely way.”

At Coleman Mine, the scene remains frozen as the Ministry of Labour conducts its investigation. It issued a number of orders to Vale this week, mostly requesting doc-u ments relating to mining activity in the area Perry was working.

Bertrand said earlier it was important to involve surface plant employees in any discussions about safety because there have been close calls there.

Last February, a furnace at the Copper Cliff Smelter Complex exploded, Bertrand said, and it could have been deadly.

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