Feb 12, 2013- 4:49 PM
Theriault to be replaced in a few weeks
The president of the union, Rick Bertrand, said in an email that he spoke to Theriault for about 40 minutes Jan. 18, at which time Theriault told him he was resigning.
“I was actually surprised Denis would resign eight months after an election and discussing our commitment to the union and to work together as a united group,” Bertrand said.
Northern Life was unable to contact Theriault for comment.
However, local media reports indicate he left because of "opposing ideology and philosophy" with other union executives, and he's returned to his job as a trainer at Vale's Copper Cliff Smelter.
Theriault, who has worked on health and safety issues for the union in the past, beat out a more experienced candidate, Patrick Veinot, to become vice-president. Bertrand said in an email that Theriault had won that election by less than 130 votes.
Veinot had served as the union's vice-president before unsuccessfully challenging former Local 6500 president John Fera in 2009.
After Fera's retirement, which took place shortly after the union's year-long strike against Vale ended in 2010, Bertrand automatically became president and Veinot was appointed vice-president.
Veinot is also one of eight Vale workers fired during the 2009-2010 strike. Arbitration hearings for his reinstatement are still ongoing.
At the time of Theriault's election, Bertrand expressed disappointment at the turn of events during an interview with Northern Life.
“Pat and I worked together for many years — for over 12 years now,” he said. “It's disappointing not just because he's a good friend, but to be losing a really good, well-experienced vice-president. Yeah, it's really tough to see him leave.”
Bertrand also said in April that Theriault had little experience with issues such as arbitration.
“He's going to have to learn,” he said. “We're going to take things one step at at time.”
Despite allegations by Theriault that the relationship between the two was strained, Bertrand said in an email that they worked together “and had great conversations about moving the union forward.”
He said they attended meetings with company management and the Minister of Labour together.
“Denis also replaced me as president when I had meetings out of town or when I was on vacation.”
Theriault has also indicated in local media reports that he was asked to take on the duties as a compensation officer, which hasn't traditionally been part of the vice-president's role.
Bertrand said he asked him to do compensation claims “because of his past involvement and expertise as a compensation officer,” he said.
“Historically, the VP came out of the chief steward's office and dealt with arbitrations and the grievances, and in Denis’ case, he had no experience.”
Bertrand said the union's executive board will be making a decision on appointing a new vice-president in the next few weeks.