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Inco honours strikers? vacations with pay

BY KEITH LACEY As the strike at Inco Ltd. enters week three, a large percentage of long-time members of Steelworkers Local 6500 have yet to feel the financial pinch.

As the strike at Inco Ltd. enters week three, a large percentage of long-time members of Steelworkers Local 6500 have yet to feel the financial pinch.

That?s because more than 1,500 of the 3,300 members on the picket line have more than 20 years of seniority with the company. A large percentage of those workers had already booked holiday time and will receive vacation pay even though they?re on strike.

Half of the striking employees won?t be without a paycheque until the strike enters its sixth or seventh week.

?Very few guys are losing any money for the first couple of weeks because of back pay owing and holiday pay kicking in,? long-time union activist Homer Sequin said. ?Of course that changes once the strike goes past the first month or so.?

If holidays were booked properly before the labour dispute, those holidays and vacation pay will be honoured by the company, said Inco spokesperson Cory McPhee.

?Younger members without much seniority are already hurting financially and so is the company, said McPhee.

?No one ever benefits financially when there?s a strike,? he said. ?The company is losing a substantial amount of money every week there?s no production.

?It?s our hope the financial difficulties on both sides will implore both sides to get back to the bargaining table and reach an agreement.?

Unionized members withdrawing their service are free to go find other work in the community or out of town and there?s nothing the company can do about it, said McPhee.

Scott Duncan, vice-president of Local 6500, said he?s pleased the company will honour vacation pay for those employees who had already booked holidays before the strike began.

At Inco?s Canadian operations, unionized production and maintenance workers get three weeks holidays after three years of service, four weeks of holidays after 15 years, five weeks of holidays after 25 years and six weeks of holidays after 30 years of service.

The company also honours holiday ?specials? of one week per year for senior employees, but those holidays can only be used at the company?s discretion when things are slow, said Duncan.

The first strike pay cheques of $100 were deposited last Thursday into the bank accounts of 3,300 members of Local 6500. Men and women on the picket line will get $100 a week from the USWA Strike Fund for four weeks and then $115 per week after that.

If the strike lasts 16 weeks or longer, strike pay is from this fund is increased to $150 per week.

However, a former president of Local 6500 explained a labour dispute is about solidarity among all union brothers and sisters. People won?t starve or lose their homes in this community during any labour dispute.

If the strike lasts more than two months, the union leadership will issue a call to all other unions in northeastern Ontario to start lending financial assistance. The response is almost always overwhelmingly positive, said Seguin.

Food and monetary donations from members of the community and businesses always increase the longer the strike drags on, he said.


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