By DENIS ST. PIERRE, SUN MEDIA
United Steelworkers members, on strike against Vale Inco in Sudbury, are heading to Brazil this weekend to escalate their public campaign against the global mining giant and cement ties with international trade unionists.
At least a couple of Sudbury union representatives are travelling this weekend to Brazil -- headquarters of Vale SA -- and other members will replicate the trip in a couple of weeks, said Wayne Fraser, director of Steelworkers District 6.
They are going to meet with all the unions from Vale," Fraser said. They are having a collective bargaining session and our guys are going to be there."
Steelworkers representatives also will attend a conference in Brazil with 350 trade union leaders from around the world.
Our guys are going to make a presentation about what is happening with respect to the strike," Fraser said.
We are going to escalate our campaign against Vale, our corporate campaign worldwide against Vale in terms of their atrocious behaviour here in Canada."
About 3,100 members of Steelworkers Local 6500 in Sudbury, as well as 125 union members from Vale Inco's operation in Port Colborne, have been on strike since July 13. Contentious issues in the dispute include Vale's demands for changes to the workers' pension plan, a longstanding bonus tied to the price of nickel and seniority-based job transfer rights.
Another 450 Steelworkers members, employed at Vale Inco's operations at Voisey's Bay, N. L., are set to strike tomorrow.
The Steelworkers already have established what they term a "strategic partnership" with unions in Brazil. The partnership pledges mutual support for workers in their respective negotiations with Vale.
Earlier this month, a Brazilian labour federation issued a public statement criticizing Vale and accusing the company of provoking a strike in Sudbury.
A multinational that has $22 billion of cash flow and shows $13.2 billion in profits in 2008, while supposedly caring for its image as a socially responsible company, doesn't need to squeeze workers and their communities," said Artur Henrique da Silva Santos, president of the CUT (Unified Workers' Central) Brazil.