Vale says it will go to arbitration in case of fired strikers – by Star Staff (Sudbury star – March 2, 2012)

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

A Vale official says the company will “move forward” with arbitration in the case of eight fired production and maintenance workers, as directed by the Ontario Labour Relations Board last week.

A Vale spokeswoman, Angie Robson, says the company has taken United Steelworkers’ request for a month of mediation before arbitration “under advisement.” The labour board ruled the fate of eight Steelworkers fired during the union’s yearlong strike against Vale should be decided by just cause arbitration.

Vale had insisted for two years it had the right to fire the eight for bad behaviour on picket lines and in the community. John Pollesel, chief operating officer for Vale, wrote a letter to USW Local 6500 members this week saying the company acknowledged the labour board’s decision and would agree to arbitration.

Some speculated Vale might file for a judicial review – essentially an appeal – to that decision.

USW Local 6500 president said this week his union has asked Vale to consider a month of mediation, with well-respected arbitrator Kevin Burkett, the man who led at least two rounds of negotations between the two parties during the 2009-2010 strike.

Union lawyer Brian Shell said earlier this week his client had given Vale until Friday to respond to the request for mediation.

Bertrand is happy either way.

“If the cases go to arbitration, they will be dealt with one at a time and an impartial Labour Ministry official will rule whether the firings were justified,” said Bertrand.

It is likely the dismissals of three Steelworkers – Mike French, Jason Patterson and Patrick Veinot – will be dealt with in a single arbitration, said Bertrand.
The three were charged criminally after a Steelworker who returned to work during the strike was accosted in the community.

French was convicted of assault in that incident, and ordered to write an apology to the man he assaulted and given one year’s probation.

Veinot and Patterson were cleared of any wrongdoing.

If the cases go to arbitration, Bertrand wants them to start “sooner rather than later.

“Those eight guys have suffered long enough being away from work for over two years,” said Bertrand.

Shell said arbitration dates are blocked out by the OLRB and cases are slotted in to them, so these cases could be heard starting as early as April.

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