After 51 weeks on the picket lines, Vale workers at Sudbury and Port Colborne, ON, have ratified a new five-year contract. The strike was long, acrimonious and gave rise to more than one court action. About 75% of the union members voted in favour of the contract.
What did they get? A $0.90/hour increase in wages. A nickel bonus that will be triggered at $3.75/lb with a 25% cap. Increases to the defined pension plan of current workers, and new hires will participate in a defined contribution plan. The contract has a provision for a $2,000 return-to-work bonus that may also be taken by retiring employees. There are additional amounts if production reaches targeted levels within six months of ratification. The workforce will be 113 positions smaller, a goal that may be met by workers who retired or quit during the strike. A retirement incentive has also been offered. Those with 30 or more years of service can receive $30,000 if they retire within two weeks of ratification. Those with 27 to 29 years will receive $15,000. The new contract also stipulates that employees must have three years service to request a workplace transfer, and they may only transfer once every two years. Finally, all lawsuits are withdrawn.
The new five year contract is reportedly very similar to the deal rejected by the union in March 2010. That proposal was criticized by the union as failing to address seniority rights, the rehiring of fired workers, or outlining how workers would return to work.
The fate of nine workers fired by Vale during the strike remains unsolved. At issue is the legality of firing workers while they are on strike. The case is being heard by the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Is the new contract a good deal after almost a year without work? Only the union and its members are qualified to answer that.
Either way we wish everyone a safe and speedy return to work.