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Reject Vale housing plan, Steelworkers say

By: Sudbury Northern Life Staff

 | Nov 13, 2012 - 2:51 PM |

Community has 'reason to be suspicious'

The City of Greater Sudbury must categorically reject mining giant Vale's unprecedented plan to house workers at its mines and industrial sites, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

"Vale's proposal defies logic and sound planning regulations,” said Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand in a press release.

“It limits potential economic benefits for our community and it raises serious health and safety issues for workers.

“Given Vale's history of labour conflict and its lack of respect for municipal housing regulations, people in our community have reason to be suspicious of the real motives behind this plan.”

Vale has requested that Sudbury city council consider allowing the company to house workers at all of its local properties for the next three years. The idea goes before council early in the new year.

The company has publicly stated it's making the request to house temporary construction workers because of work on its Clean AER project, and not to prepare for future labour disputes.

But Bertrand said he disagrees.

"Even though the AER project is based in Copper Cliff, Vale wants to house temporary workers at mine sites as far as 40 kilometres away," Bertrand said.

"It's no wonder we have been inundated with calls and emails from our members and residents of our community who believe Vale's proposal has more to do with planning for another labour dispute in 2015."

During the year-long strike in 2009-2010, Vale hired replacement workers for the first time in the history of the former Inco operations in Sudbury.

Vale also illegally housed workers on its industrial property, in violation of municipal regulations, the press release said.

The company's history of labour antagonism and flouting municipal regulations notwithstanding, the company's temporary housing proposal simply is bad planning, the Steelworkers say.

"Vale is treating Sudbury as some kind of isolated, fly-in outpost, rather than a modern city with the ability to offer safe, appropriate housing that allows workers to contribute and be part of the community," said Wess Dowsett, USW area co-ordinator.

"For starters, we know that there are at least 2,500 hotel and motel rooms in the city. In addition, we believe that if Vale is willing to invest and work with local government, businesses, property owners, community groups, etc., our community can find better and safer alternatives to makeshift housing on industrial property.

"Segregating temporary workers on industrial sites would not only present health and safety issues, it would isolate these workers and reduce the economic impact they would provide if they had appropriate housing in the community."

Rather than bringing an industrial housing plan to the city, "Vale should have engaged in meaningful consultation with its workforce and with other stakeholders in the community," said Marty Warren, assistant to USW District 6 director Wayne Fraser.

"Vale has not addressed important issues such as the number of jobs that could - and should - go to local residents. Maximizing the hiring of local workers would lessen the need for temporary housing and boost the local economy.”

"We are talking about a project that has been in the planning stages for years and that will take several more years to complete," Bertrand said.

"Our community legitimately expects Vale to do everything it can to ensure Sudburians have first crack at these jobs. Where is the plan to train and recruit local workers?

"Instead, Vale simply says it has to import thousands of temporary workers to our community and house them on industrial land. Vale's plan minimizes local economic and social benefits. It's a plan that our city leaders should reject out-of-hand."

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