With rumours swirling of possible layoffs at Vale's Sudbury operations, Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said he was meeting with his membership Aug. 16.
Even though he knows the atmosphere is stressful, he wanted to advise them to keep their minds on the job so they come home safely at the end of their shifts.
“There hasn't been anything issued that if there's going to be any layoffs,” said Bertrand, who represents 2,700 Vale production and maintenance workers.
“Obviously there's a lot of rumours going around, and there's a lot of talk going around.
“Until we hear definitely if there is a layoff or anything, I believe everyone needs to work and make sure their minds are on their jobs, and they go home safe after work.”
With nickel prices hovering between US$4 and $5 over the past couple of months, Vale is taking a financial hit, Bertrand said.
In July, Vale's net income dropped drastically to $16 million from $1.1 billion in the same quarter a year earlier. The company plans to seek out copper mining options and stop expanding nickel production capacity.
The company also recently shuttered its historic Stobie Mine because of low metal prices and declining ore grades. Workers at Stobie were absorbed into other operations.
Bertrand said Copper Cliff North Mine — which also has low ore grades — is going on a six-week shutdown starting this weekend. Vale is still hopeful that it'll be able to make North Mine profitable, he said.
Last week, Bertrand reviewed a Vale video about the financial viability of the company's Sudbury operations along with Vale officials. “They're just reviewing some of their assets,” he said.
Vale employees viewed the same video, and some told another local media outlet they took it as a warning that the company could soon be making cuts.
Sudbury.com, Northern Ontario Business' sister news outlet, reached out to Vale to ask about the layoff rumours, and received this written response from corporate affairs specialist Danica Pagnutti.
“We have been very open with our employees about the challenges our business is facing,” she said. “However, no final decisions have been made and we have not made any announcements regarding reductions to our workforce.”