Nearly three years ago, on Jan. 19, 2010, three Steelworkers Local 6500 members were involved in an incident that resulted in both charges being laid against them and Vale firing them.
Patrick Veinot, Jason Patterson and Mike French were eventually found not guilty of criminal harassment, while French was found guilty of assault against a man who crossed the picket line during the Vale-Steelworkers labour dispute.
Their union fought for and won the right for Veinot, Patterson and French, along with five other men fired during the labour dispute, to participate in arbitration hearings to determine if they can return to work at Vale.
Two of the workers fired during the strike won their jobs back last year, and another three decided not to return to Vale after receiving settlements from the company.
Veinot, Patterson and French's case will drag on well into 2013.
The arbitration for the three men is being heard jointly. The next scheduled hearing dates are May 11-12, with further hearings to take place July 18 and Aug. 26 and 27, if necessary.
Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said these were the soonest dates everyone involved, including the arbitrator, were available.
“It would have been great to have 10 dates in January if we could have, but not everyone's available, and that's what makes it difficult.”
Bertrand said he hopes the case will be wrapped up in May, but isn't sure whether or not that will happen.
“It's tough to take,” he said. “It's hard on the three families. But we're coming to an end hopefully sooner than later.”
Patterson, the union's treasurer, is currently on the Steelworkers' payroll. Veinot, who was ousted as the union's vice-president in an election last year, as well as French, have found employment elsewhere.
Bertrand said he's confident the arbitration will rule in favour of the three men, and they'll eventually be able to return to their jobs at Vale.