Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another sky is blue moment

While I can empathize with the workers of Vale Inco on some level, there is apparently something that they didn't count on when they went on strike 7 months ago.

What happens if management and the company decides (or realizes) that they lose less money by shutting down operations than they do by continuing to operate under a contract with its employees that is too expensive. Couple that with an attitude like this:

Workers complain that they shouldn't have to give concessions to a company whose parent, Brazil-based Vale S.A., earned US$5.35 billion in 2009. This frustration was exacerbated when the other major mining company with operations in the Sudbury area, Xstrata Nickel, reached a labour agreement with its workers recently without having to resort to a strike.

and you have a long standing strike that has no hope of being resolved any time soon. The CEP website is rife with similar sentiments from the union regarding many companies in several industries, but what it comes down to is that it is not enough for the company as a whole to be profitable, each division needs to be profitable on its own or it doesn't last very long:

But Ball said Vale's Sudbury operations - formerly owned by Inco before it was bought by Vale for $19 billion in 2006 - need to be profitable without the help of its parent company, otherwise they could be shut down. The cost of keeping up with increasingly stringent environmental regulations and maintaining aging infrastructure means the company needs all the help it can get to stay profitable, he added.

"We have to generate that money here. Vale is not going to bail us out. That's got to come out of the ground, and if we don't increase our profit margins and get more efficient in order to generate that money, it's not coming from anywhere else," Ball said.

So a company *gasp* actually expects that it should make a profit in each of its divisions in order for those divisions to be sustainable, while the group of workers expects that the company should subsidize operations in Canada by making more of a profit in its other operations. Come to think of it, doesn't that violate not one, but two of a union's basic premises - that of sustainable development and fairness. It also seems to be a case where the union expects the company to exploit workers in another country who may not be as well paid or have working conditions that are as good in order to cover their increased wages and benefits. Ironic, don't you think?

The last quote in the article really brings home the point, however:

"If we're not successful, there is a real possibility that we will not be able to attract investment here in the next 10 years and we will see this operation slowly wind down, because one way to reduce emissions is to cut back production," he(Ball) added.

I think that these people need to give a few inches - they aren't just fighting for their wage tomorrow, they're fighting against losing their job in a few years. That in itself should give incentive to get back to the table and give a little.

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