Port Colborne Steelworkers Vote 98% to Reject Vale Offer

"They realized to what degree this company continues to treat them with contempt and disrespect."

PORT COLBORNE, ON, March 12 /CNW/ - After eight months of disrespect from Vale Inco, striking Steelworkers in Port Colborne have overwhelmingly rejected this foreign corporation's latest, substandard contract offer.

"Our members are angry and disappointed," Wayne Rae, President of United Steelworkers Local 6200, said Friday after the Local's members voted 98% against the Vale offer.

"Our members may be hurting after eight months on the picket line, but they have sent a clear message to Vale that they must be treated with fairness, respect and dignity," Rae said. "They deserve a contract that benefits our workers and our communities, as well as the company."

USW Local 6200 represents workers on strike at Vale's Port Colborne refinery. The Port Colborne strikers' decisive vote comes on the heels of a similar vote Thursday in Sudbury, where USW Local 6500 members rejected Vale's contract offer by a majority of 88.7%.

Of 112 eligible members of USW Local 6200, 108 members cast ballots during Friday's vote in Port Colborne. There were 106 votes to reject Vale's contract offer and two votes to accept.

"Our members would like nothing better than to return to work," USW Staff Representative Myles Sullivan said following the Port Colborne vote. "But once they had the opportunity to fully assess the details and implications of Vale's offer, they realized to what degree this company continues to treat them with contempt and disrespect."

More than 3,000 workers have been on strike against Vale in Sudbury and Port Colborne for eight months - since last July 13. More than 200 workers from Vale's operations in Voisey's Bay, NL., also members of the United Steelworkers, have been on strike since last Aug. 1.

Vale decided last weekend to make another cynical and potentially damaging contract offer to the strikers in Sudbury and Port Colborne, rather than engage in meaningful negotiations with the Steelworkers. Union members were angry to learn Vale decided to prolong the dispute rather than accept the USW's unprecedented, good-faith proposal to end the strike and settle outstanding issues through binding arbitration.

"Arbitrated settlements are common in Vale's home country of Brazil," Sullivan noted. "But when it comes to Canada, Vale callously rejects our good-faith offer, even though it would immediately end this devastating strike."

The Steelworkers' bargaining committee had unanimously recommended that union members reject Vale's substandard contract offer. During meetings this week, strikers learned of the extraordinary efforts made by their bargaining committee to try to reach a settlement with Vale during 11 days of mediated, exploratory discussions.

The mediator called off the talks last weekend following Vale's repeated refusal to negotiate meaningfully and its rejection of the union's numerous, good-faith attempts to find common ground.

"Our members are angry that Vale refuses to share its long-term plans for its Canadian operations and workforce, particularly on issues such as jobs and investment," said Wayne Fraser, Director of USW District 6.

"How can union members, working families and communities plan and make decisions about our collective future when a foreign corporation treats us all with such contempt?"

Fraser demanded the provincial and federal governments use their levers of power and influence to compel "this foreign corporation to respect Canadian workers and traditions, negotiate a fair deal and end this unnecessary dispute that it provoked."

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: For further information: Wayne Rae, USW Local 6200, President, (905) 835-8542; Myles Sullivan, USW Staff Representative, (705) 675-2461

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