‘We made the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion’

Steel­work­ers vote in tem­po­rary work­force at IOC

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - FRONT PAGE - BY EVAN CAREEN

Ron Thomas says he doesn’t know what would’ve hap­pened if the union voted dif­fer­ently on Feb. 2.

Thomas, pres­i­dent of the United Steel­work­ers lo­cal in Labrador city, refers to a vote the mem­bers took on ex­tend­ing a tem­po­rary work­force.

“A bunch of dif­fer­ent things could have hap­pened,” he told TC Me­dia. “The com­pany could have brought in con­trac­tors, hired other work­ers, hon­estly, I re­ally don’t know.”

He said that fear of the un­known was prob­a­bly one of the fac­tors mem­bers weighed when they cast their bal­lot. Thomas said 69 per cent of the work­ers voted and it squeaked by with 53 per cent in favour of ac­cept­ing the deal. IOC has had the tem­po­rary work­force in place for six months now and this ex­tends that agree­ment un­til the end of the union con­tract in 2018.

The work­ers were brought in to al­le­vi­ate the forced overtime union mem­bers were tak­ing on to meet work­force de­mands. Thomas said in a past in­ter­view with TC Me­dia the union has seen about 200 peo­ple leave in the last few years.

The agree­ment has a num­ber of con­di­tions, in­clud­ing all union mem­bers get­ting a chance to work be­fore any tem­po­rary work­ers are called in, tem­po­rary work­ers get­ting no ac­crued se­cu­rity, and tem­po­rary work­ers not com­pris­ing more than 12.5 per cent of the to­tal bar­gain­ing unit. In ad­di­tion, the com­pany has to hire 62 full-time work­ers in the year.

Thomas said those con­di­tions weren’t there when ne­go­ti­a­tions started and he thinks they’ve done a good job of pro­tect­ing the union.

“We had to make sure our peo­ple were pro­tected,” he said. “We didn’t want peo­ple do­ing the same work and not get­ting the same ben­e­fits but we need to pro­tect the union.”

The vote, if noth­ing else, shows a di­vided union. Thomas said there are ar­gu­ments to be made on both sides, with plenty of valid points for and against the tem­po­rary work­force.

He said ul­ti­mately the vote shows work­ers are still dis­trust­ful of IOC, which has had a sour re­la­tion­ship with the union for years. IOC re­cently made some big changes at the top, with Clay­ton Walker be­ing named the new CEO.

Thomas said it is too early to say what im­pact that change will have but so far, signs are good.

“He got rid of some of the peo­ple we had prob­lems with other there,” Thomas said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

He said while they voted to ac­cept the tem­po­rary work­force, it wasn’t some­thing any­one in the union wanted.

“We made the best of a bad sit­u­a­tion.”

FILE PHOTO

United Steel­work­ers lo­cal pres­i­dent Ron Thomas said the close vote on the tem­po­rary work­force shows how far the com­pany and union still have to go to re­pair the re­la­tion­ship.

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