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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 74/No. 20      May 24, 2010

(lead article)
Nickel strikers in Canada
say, ‘Enough is enough!’
Gerry Kingsley
Strikers and supporters block entrance to Vale Inco’s Clarabelle nickel mill near Sudbury, Ontario, May 11. Workers have been on strike for 10 months.

MONTREAL—As the strike by 3,000 nickel miners, refinery, and smelter workers against Vale Inco near Sudbury, Ontario, enters its 11th month, strikers have ended five days of protests blocking two roads leading to a mine and mill that have been operating using scabs.

“Enough is enough. Something has got to be done,” underground miner Shawn Leduc told the Militant referring to the length of the strike, the refusal of the company to negotiate a new contract, and its use of scabs.

The actions began May 7 following the announcement that for the second time government-mediated talks had broken down. The main issues in the strike, which began last July 13, are concessions demanded by the bosses on pensions, bonuses, seniority transfer rights, and contracting out. The union is demanding the company rescind the firing of at least nine union activists framed up on charges of threatening scabs and company security guards.

In phone interviews, strikers told the Militant many truckers refused to drive through the protests of hundreds of union supporters to get to the mine and the mill, and many people driving by honked their horns in solidarity.

Vale Inco officials won a court injunction ordering the protesters to disperse. Despite the order, hundreds of strikers, their families, and supporters reinforced the protests,

Strikers from the Clarabelle Mill protest reported that May 11 the police came to read out the order. The more than 100 protesters there linked arms and began chanting and singing “Solidarity Forever.” The police left.

Vale Inco lawyers returned to court and convinced the judge to order the police to remove the protesters. Retired Local 6500 union member J.C. Laurin was part of the protest at the Clarabelle Mill. He told the Militant that on May 12, USW District 6 director Wayne Fraser and Local 6500 president John Fera visited the protest and asked the strikers to end it at that time.

“They said the Ontario Labor Relations Board had agreed to hold a hearing May 14 on the request by the USW to deal now with the case of the nine fired union activists.” Further hearings on the USW complaint of bad-faith bargaining against Vale Inco are not scheduled to take place until late June. “We agreed to end the protest,” said Laurin.

Laurin also reported the Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating a May 7 accident at Vale Inco’s Copper Cliff smelter, which is being operated by scabs. “A chimney stack fell and cut pressurized oxygen lines. Fortunately they were drained.,” said Laurin. “There haven’t been any safety inspections there for 10 months. It could have been a disaster.”
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