Date: Sat, 11 Dec 1999 01:08:34 -0600 (CST)
Steelworkers Win Labor Dispute at Inco in Manitoba
ICEM press release, 10 December 1999
NEWS from the North American Regional Office of the
International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions
Kenneth S. Zinn, North American Regional Coordinator
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, D.C., December 10 - The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) announced last night that its members at Inco Ltd.'s nickel mine and mill complex in northern Manitoba ratified a new collective bargaining agreement by a 66% margin.
The new agreement ends Inco's 12-week lockout of the local union's 1,100 members at the Thompson, Manitoba facility.
The three-year contract gives the workers a wage increase of more than five percent over the life of the contract and 13% in pension improvements. It also provides for a C$1,000 signing bonus.
"When we started this bargaining process, the company was looking for a 13.5% reduction," said Bob Desjarlais, president of USWA Local Union 6166. "We made gains here in the neighborhood of ten percent, so there's no question in our minds who won this battle."
The labor dispute forced Inco to warn customers that it would not be able to supply them with nickel products normally produced at Thompson. The company's U.S. marketing division declared force majeure last week, and two other divisions soon followed. Inco supplies about 26% of the world's nickel demand.
The Inco mine and mill workers received the support of the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers (ICEM) during their lock-out. At the global level, the USWA is affiliated to the ICEM.
Last month, USWA Canadian National Director Lawrence McBrearty gave the union's struggle international attention when he addressed the ICEM's World Congress in Durban, South Africa and won the federation's backing. Inco's behavior is an example of a "heartless corporate culture that puts profits before people," McBrearty told the Congress. The USWA will take "the struggle for justice to the four corners of the globe," he declared.
Soon thereafter, unionized workers at Inco's refineries in England and Wales, members of the Transport & General Workers Union, were alerted to the struggle and communicated their support for the locked-out workers to local management and to the company's executives in Canada. The Transport & General Workers Union is also affiliated at the global level to the ICEM.
"It is with great concern to myself and my membership employed in your UK operations to learn of the lock-out of 1,000 unionised workers and your refusal to provide their union with a reasonable contract," Fred Higgs, then-National Secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union, wrote on November 23 to Inco chief executive officer Michael Sopko in Toronto.
"We call on your personal intervention," he continued, "to ensure that union members' wishes in Thompson to have a contract with your company covering all collective bargaining issues including pay and pension is agreed with their union." Higgs was elected last month to become the ICEM's new General Secretary.
"We applaud the Steelworkers leadership and rank-and-file for their courage and determination to win justice and dignity in Thompson," said Kenneth Zinn, ICEM North American Regional Coordinator, earlier today. "Once again, we have seen that union solidarity works."
More information on the ICEM's North American activities can be found on the World Wide Web at <http://www.icemna.org/>http://www.icemna.org<http://www.icemna.org/>/.