Vale violated labour law with firings: Labour board

Fired workers’ fate to be decided by arbitrator, board says
||Last Updated: 02/28/2012

Mining giant Vale violated the Ontario Labour Relations Act by refusing to provide recourse to nine workers fired during a year-long strike, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has ruled.

The OLRB ruled the fired workers are entitled to arbitration. Under Ontario law, unionized workers have the right to third-party arbitration if and when fired to determine if the employer had just cause to discharge them.

The United Steelworkers union (USW) — which represents the workers — called the decision a major victory.

“We are confident that the board’s decision will help bring about the reinstatement of these workers through the arbitration process,” said USW Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand. “In the meantime, we invite Vale to reinstate these workers while the process runs its course.”

The USW filed a bad-faith bargaining complaint with the OLRB more than two years ago during the 2009–2010 strike. The union alleged negotiations were stalled by the company's decision to refuse to let an arbitrator decide on the fired workers' fate.

“In the result, having regard to the circumstances and Vale's position, we conclude that Vale's position was patently unreasonable,” the OLRB decision reads. “In maintaining that position to impasse, Vale was not making every reasonable effort to make a collective agreement.”

The next step is to contact Vale to set up arbitration dates, according to Bertrand.

However, Vale has the option either to proceed with arbitration by setting dates with the union or to launch a judicial review of the board's decision.

Vale hasn’t commented on the ruling.

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