City must reject Vale housing plan, Steelworkers say
SUDBURY, ON (November 13, 2012) - 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. It limits potential economic benefits for our community and it raises serious health and safety issues for workers," said USW Local 6500 President Rick Bertrand.
"Given Vale's history of labour conflict its lack of respect for municipal housing regulations, people in our community have reason to be suspicious of the real motives behind this plan," Bertrand said.
Vale wants the city to change its zoning bylaws to allow the company to house temporary workers at 11 different industrial sites - including its smelter, mill, acid plant, and several mines - over the next few years.
Vale claims it will need housing on its industrial sites due largely to an influx of temporary workers from outside the city who will be hired for its AER pollution-abatement program in Copper Cliff.
"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 unprecedented, 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.
Vale's history of labour antagonism and flouting municipal regulations notwithstanding, the company's temporary housing proposal simply is bad planning, the USW says.
"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 coordinator.
"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," Dowsett said.
"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," Warren said.
"We are talking about a project that has been in the planning stages for years and that will take several more years to complete," noted Bertrand.
"Our community legitimately expects Vale to do everything it can to ensure Sudburians have first crack at these jobs," he said. "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."