Vale sues union, alleging thuggery

Striking union members in Sudbury, Ont., have engaged in “unlawful thuggery” by threatening personnel during a bitter seven-month strike at Vale Inco, the company alleges in a lawsuit.

Striking union members in Sudbury, Ont., have engaged in “unlawful thuggery” by threatening personnel during a bitter seven-month strike at Vale Inco, the company alleges in a lawsuit. United Steelworkers Local 6500 and some of its members have posted personal information about people who are continuing to work during the strike, which has led to intimidation, threats and an assault, the mining giant alleges in its more than $1-million lawsuit.

“This has not been a peaceful strike,” the company writes in a statement of claim, filed in Superior Court in Sudbury.“Masked picketers have engaged in criminal conduct, including an assault of a Vale Inco employee and the sabotage of Vale Inco property.” People on the picket lines have set large fires so trucks carrying explosives and fuel can’t cross, hydro wires have been cut, rail equipment has been damaged and roads have been littered with nail spikes to puncture truck tires, the statement of claim alleges. The allegations have not been proven in court. “The defendants’ conduct is unlawful thuggery, which has nothing to do with legitimate trade union activity,” the lawsuit says. “This conduct should not be tolerated in a liberal and civilized society.”

Wayne Fraser, a director for the union in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, called the lawsuit an “antagonistic measure.” “It’s a nuisance,” said Fraser, who is not one of the 25 people directly named in the suit.

“(The allegations) are not true. They’re unsubstantiated and it’s just a way of Vale trying to divide the membership from its rank and file activists.”

A statement of defence has not yet been filed but is in the works, said Fraser, who also said the union plans to countersue the company for defamation.