SUDBURY, Ontario–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The 2,500 members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6500 in Sudbury voted to strike on June 1st to protect health benefits and proper compensation during good times. After provoking the strike with its concessionary demands, mining giant Vale has tabled a second contract offer that includes similar take-aways with minimal improvements.
Vale’s second offer will be reviewed by Local 6500 members on Monday, June 14, followed by online voting on the proposal. The union’s bargaining committee is unanimously recommending that members reject Vale’s latest concessionary offer.
“Health and medical benefits and lack of recognition for our members’ value to the company remain crucial issues. Vale’s new offer does not adequately address these issues,” said USW Local 6500 President Nick Larochelle.
“Vale knows it provoked this strike by demanding concessions, yet it continues to attack health benefits,” Larochelle said.
“We want to be clear – our members want to get back to work, but they expect a good-faith offer from Vale that respects their concerns,” he added.
Vale’s second offer still proposes to eliminate the existing retiree health and medical benefit plan for all future hires. The company is now proposing to offer those future retirees a $1,000 “health-care savings account,” which would take away nearly 80% of the coverage currently provided to members under the existing plan. Coverage for some medications and medical supplies would be entirely eliminated.
“Vale wants to lower the standard of living for retirees in our community. In Canada, we believe we should look after one another, and that’s a concept this employer doesn’t seem to understand,” said USW staff representative Pascal Boucher.
“Eliminating post-retirement health benefits from other staff is not a justification to take away these benefits from workers who are exposed to toxic and hazardous substances throughout their careers and who often develop serious illnesses and medical conditions in retirement. The real solution is for Vale to do the right thing and maintain these vital benefits for everyone. It shouldn’t be a race to the bottom,” said Larochelle.
After accounting for cost-of-living adjustments, Vale’s new contract offer calls for 1% annual wage increases, and little to nothing on pensions. Workers in the defined-benefit pension plan are offered a $100 increase in the pre-65 monthly benefit and a $2 increase on the basic pension by the end of the proposed five-year contract, while Vale is offering no increase in its contributions to members enrolled in the defined-contribution pension plan.
Paying out shareholders at the expense of workers and Canadian taxpayers:
Vale’s financial reports indicate its shareholders were paid a whopping US $3.88 billion (CAN $4.7 billion) in dividends in the first three months of 2021 alone. Vale has paid shareholders total dividends of US $13.55 billion (approximately CAN $16.4 billion) since the signing of the previous long-term collective agreement between the company and USW Local 6500 in 2015.
As well, the company has stockpiled US $12.9 billion (CAN $15.6 billion) in cash, as of the end of March this year,
Further, Canadian taxpayers have been subsidizing Vale’s operations, despite the company’s massive profits. Taxpayers gave the company $67.7 million last year, in the form of pandemic-related subsidies from the federal government.
“Meanwhile, the company is provoking an unnecessary fight with its Sudbury workforce. Our members and the community understand that Vale doesn’t need concessions and that it can offer a better contract. Times are good for Vale in Sudbury – very good – because our members have been producing tremendous wealth for the company. It is time Vale shows they care,” Larochelle said.
“In recent years and throughout the pandemic, our members have held up our end of the bargain. We’ve generated big profits for the company and the shareholders, we improved safety and we worked in good faith with management to cut costs in many areas,” he said.
“Our members expect Vale to actually demonstrate that they care for their existing and future workers – rather than offering empty words.”
Nick Larochelle, USW Local 6500 President, 705-675-3381, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pascal Boucher, USW Staff Representative, 705-675-2461, email@example.com
Shannon Devine, USW Communications, 416-894-7118 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org