Vale 'sets the record straight' on failed contract talks with USW

TORONTO, July 23 /CNW/ - Earlier this week, contract talks between Vale and USW Local 9508 in Newfoundland and Labrador ended with no progress made towards ending a strike at the company's Voisey's Bay operations by 130 mine and mill employees that began on August 1, 2009.

Since talks broke off USW has increased the level and volume of misinformation to deflect attention from their unwillingness to engage in meaningful negotiations. Here are the facts:

    -   The USW bargaining team began proceedings by declaring itself
        unwilling to negotiate any additional outstanding items until Vale
        agreed to a full-time paid union president position for Voisey's Bay.

    -   At the urging of the company and the provincial conciliators, the USW
        finally submitted a counter-proposal that contained no change in the
        union's position on the major outstanding issues and introduced
        significant new monetary demands. Accepted as is, the union proposal
        would increase Vale's labour costs by 45% over the previous
        collective agreement.

    -   The Local union president has been quoted as saying he 'doesn't
        understand the company's calculations' and 'all they asked for was an
        8% pay increase'. What he chooses not to say is that asking for 8% a
        year over three years (compounded annually) is actually more than a
        24% pay increase.

    -   Other financial demands made by the USW, and not mentioned by the
        union president, include: an additional 10% increase in base wages
        for each night spent at the Voisey's Bay site; a Cost-of-Living
        Allowance (COLA); a nickel bonus; overtime at time-and-a-half after 8
        hours a day (when employees work a 12-hour shift schedule); and a
        shift premium of $1.50 an hour for night shift. Both the shift
        premium and the overtime are new items never before raised by the USW
        in any prior negotiations over the past 12 months.

    -   The USW staff representative has been quoted as saying 'the company
        offered an inferior bonus system based on incentives and refused to
        discuss other outstanding issues on the table until the union agrees
        to the new bonus system'. This is completely untrue. There was no
        bonus proposal tabled during the two days of talks. All that
        transpired was a preliminary one hour discussion on bonus
        possibilities which both USW and Vale agreed to do - that ended
        quickly, along with the talks themselves - when the union adopted a
        "we want the Sudbury deal" position and refused to engage further, a
        reversal of its earlier willingness to explore Labrador-specific
        solutions. At no time was a bonus proposal tabled and at no time were
        potential bonus options financially evaluated for comparison

    -   The USW leadership has accused Vale of treating its members as
        "second-class citizens". Again, this has no basis in truth
        whatsoever. The "nothing less than Sudbury" refrain ignores the fact
        that employees in Ontario accepted a contract containing a 3% wage
        increase (plus COLA) over five years. As far back as January, Vale
        tabled a settlement offer in Newfoundland and Labrador containing an
        immediate 10% wage increase for employees during the time they are on
        site - in recognition of Voisey's Bay's uniqueness as a remote, fly-
        in, fly-out operation. Employees also receive a northern allowance
        and a travel allowance in further recognition of those same unique
        qualities. Since operations began at Voisey's Bay in 2005, the
        financial arrangements with employees in Labrador have been
        fundamentally different from those elsewhere in Canada. There are
        different job classifications and different pension and benefits
        plans. To suggest that financial arrangements in Labrador should be a
        photocopy of agreements with USW in Ontario ignores the fact that
        this has never been the case since operations began. Vale's
        settlement proposals to date have reflected the unique business needs
        of Labrador. People are welcome to make comparisons as they see fit,
        be it to Sudbury, Brazil, recent steel industry settlements, the
        public sector, or, perhaps more relevantly, other employers in
        Newfoundland and Labrador. In every instance they will discover that
        the company offer is a very good one - with wage increases, pension
        increases, a good bonus plan, and other improvements to the expired
        collective agreement.

On August 30, Vale and the USW will be in front of the provincial Labour Relations Board for a hearing on the Bargaining in Bad Faith claim brought by the company against the union for its conduct to date. At that time, Vale will be amending its claim to include the continued unwillingness to engage in meaningful negotiations demonstrated by the USW during this latest round of talks.

For more information visit


For further information: For further information: Cory McPhee, Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Vale, 416.361.7669,; Bob Carter, Manager, Corporate Affairs, Vale, Newfoundland and Labrador, 709.758.8895,

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