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Two-month strike at Vale mine in Sudbury to end after workers approve contract

SUDBURY, Ont. — The first strike at Vale Canada in more than a decade is drawing to a close after unionized workers at the Sudbury, Ont., mine ratified a collective agreement.
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SUDBURY, Ont. — The first strike at Vale Canada in more than a decade is drawing to a close after unionized workers at the Sudbury, Ont., mine ratified a collective agreement.

Members of United Steelworkers Local 6500 voted 85 per cent in favour of the five-year deal that takes effect immediately.

In a message to members, the union says the deal was reached after two weeks of "challenging negotiations" with the help of a facilitator that recognized their contributions to the company's success and addressed issues demanded by workers, including protecting future generations of workers.

The agreement "includes significant monetary improvements for existing members and preserves retiree health benefits for all future hires," the bargaining committee said in unanimously recommending employee approval.

Employees will return to work beginning Monday with production ramping up in the weeks ahead.

"The past two months have been challenging for everyone," stated Dino Otranto, chief operating officer, North Atlantic Operations for Vale. 

"We are pleased that the company and the union were able to find common ground and a path forward. We look forward to welcoming everyone back."

The union says the agreement that expires May 31, 2026 provides a $2,500 payment in August in recognition of efforts during the pandemic, a $3,500 signing bonus to be paid in September, and a six per cent wage increase and minimum $2.46 per hour cost of living adjustment over five years.

Other changes include improved pension and health-care benefits. The monthly pre-age 65 defined benefit pension increases by $50 to $3,800 upon ratification and to $3,850 on June 1, 2023. The basic benefit increases by $1 per year to $62, rising to $63 in two years.

Defined contribution plan members can make additional voluntary unmatched contributions of one to 19 per cent of the regular base wage effective Jan. 1 and new hires can immediately initiate automatic enrolment for voluntary contributions of six per cent of base wages that will be matched by the company.

Post-retirement health benefits will be provided for all future hires.

Prescription drug coverage for active members requires use of mandatory generic drugs unless a doctor determines they aren't effective, the employee contribution increases to $4 per prescription and the employer-paid dispensing fee is capped at $10 per prescription.

Vision coverage increases $25 to $350 every three years, sick pay increases $25 to $700 per week and bereavement leave is increased to five consecutive days.

The labour disruption began June 1 after workers rejected a proposal by the Brazilian mining company and opposed a subsequent offer.

Vale's Otrano said there are many opportunities ahead for the business because of the growing electric vehicle market since the nickel, copper and cobalt the mine produces are critical metals to achieve a low-carbon future.

"What we produce, and how we produce it, matters and our collective success going forward will require collaboration to make this business successful for us all. I’m confident that together, we will find our way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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