Vale strikers collect money for food bank

It's Day 10 on the picket line for 2,400 workers at Vale, who hit the picket lines to fight for benefits for new hires and better pension and wage increases.

At the picket lines across the Sudbury area Thursday, the union was collecting cash donations for the Sudbury Food Bank.

"With COVID and everything, it's been a rough year for everybody and we know we are on strike and a lot of people drop stuff off to us and we want to give back today to everyone in the community," said Mickey O'Brien, a Steelworkers Local 6500 member.

The union membership rejected the company's first offer by 70 per cent. One of the major issues is the loss of benefits after retirement for new hires.

"We figure that with all the stuff we are dealing with here at the smelter, all of the carcinogen substances, that we deserve to have our benefits after retirement, that's probably when we are gonna use it most," said striker Yan Ouellet.

"We inhale diesel fumes, dust. In the smelter there is so much toxic stuff that our members deal with every day. They get cancer," added O'Brien.

For the second time in week, local MPPs France Gelinas and Jamie West showed their support for workers on the picket line. West worked for Vale for 17 years and was on strike twice.

"The reality is when you get hired you have a pretty good contract to a pretty good living and that's what drives our economy here in Sudbury," West said.

"And I am inspired by workers who are standing up for people who haven't been hired yet saying we want to make sure they have the same benefits I was hired with."

The workers said they also want better wage increases, given the company's current record profits.

"If we don't stand together in the good times, we are afraid that the bad time is going to be even worse," said Ouellet.

Both the union and the company confirm talks are ongoing.

Vale says its Sudbury operations remain ramped down to a safe state.