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Home > Sectors > Mining > Xstrata > Xstrata Nickel workers protest Industry Minister for letting Xstrata off the hook

Xstrata Nickel workers protest Industry Minister for letting Xstrata off the hook

Posted: February 23, 2009

7 Bus loads (over 300) workers, supporters and leadership, from Sudbury,  along with NDP MP's Claude Gravelle, Glen Thibeault and Ken Lewenza, CAW president, and his assistant, Jerry Dias, descended upon Tony Clement's constituency office in Huntsville, last Friday (Feb 20, 2009), to protest our government's decision to rescind the Agreement with Investment Canada. Clement, as Industry Minister, gave the go-ahead for Xstrata, the foreign company that took over Canadian nickel giant Falconbridge Ltd, to break it's agreement with Investment Canada of not to lay off anyone for 3 years. Well, a couple weeks ago they did just that, laying off 686 workers.

The Mine Mill598/CAW union says the Feb. 9 layoff of 686 Xstrata Nickel workers violated terms of a 2006 purchase agreement when the mine was bought from Falconbridge Ltd. The Mine Mill598/CAW says the agreement stipulated that no layoffs would occur for three years, until the end of July 2009.

About 300 laid-off workers and supporters rallied outside Clement's office for about an hour and a half.
"We are here because we want to fight for our jobs we just lost," said Richard Paquin, the unit chair for Xstrata Nickel. "We feel strongly that as Canadians, we should have a say in what our government does behind our backs," Paquin said. "They sold us out."
Along with NDP supporters, many members of local unions, CUPE local, Orillia and Muskoka Labour Congress, The Parry Sound Muskoka NDP also attended to show their solidarity. There was also a "live" message of support, via Black Berry; in from France Gelinas NDP MPP.... it really was amazing.

The signs left behind coating the outside of Clement’s Office were a powerful statement.  CBC/Radio Canada, CTV, Cogeco, Muskoka Today, Huntsville Forester and other local newspapers were all there.

Clement was not in his office, but his secretary agreed to meet with Dwight Harper, president of Mine Mill and Smelter Workers' Union Local 598/CAW. The union represents about 580 of the laid-off workers....

The union wants a copy of a written agreement between Investment Canada and Xstrata. In the agreement, Xstrata committed it would refrain from layoffs until the end of July of this year in return for the federal government's approval of the company's 2006 takeover of Falconbridge Ltd. If the company were to follow through on the agreement, workers would get about an additional seven weeks pay and seniority.

"Our ultimate goal is obviously to get our jobs back. Barring that, we want to get the right restitution for their commitment," Harper said.  The union also wants a transcript of a meeting that took place the weekend prior to the layoffs, Harper said.

"Our next step, barring some progress with a meeting with Mr. Clement, we are probably going to take our fight to Ottawa," Harper said.

Switzerland-based Xstrata, which also closed three mines, blamed deteriorating commodity markets and high operating costs.

Clement was recently criticized for taking credit for Xstrata's pledge to spend US$290 million to offset the job cuts since the company had already committed to spending the cash.

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