USW Local 6166


May 19, 2017 Press Release

 USW 6166 Press Release re: Update on Birchtree Closure

On May 16, 2017, Vice-President Gord Medwid and I attended Birchtree to meet with members having any concerns. We also met with the Mine Manager to ensure that our members are treated with respect and dignity. We were not invited to any of the crew meetings in the Manitoba Division, nor did we know the times that they were taking place. I understand that some of our members were upset because there was no union representation at the meetings. I take full responsibility for this, if I knew the times of the meetings, I would have assigned people to represent us despite very few answers at this time and a lot of unanswered questions.

I have personally done over a dozen interviews with the media including the press release that went out to the members via the USW Local 6166 website.

Since our press release, we have met with the Mayor of Thompson, Dennis Fenske, Deputy Mayor Kathy Valentino and Kelly Bindle, our Provincial MLA who at this point are seeking information and help from us to where we need to go. The City of Thompson has a number of initiatives that they are working on with the Provincial Government. The City of Thompson and USW Local 6166 representatives have a meeting set up with the Provincial Government on May 26, 2017 to update and discuss how the Government can provide assistance.

We have met with Vale Representatives this week to discuss the impact of the Birchtree closure and what we can do to mitigate any potential layoffs to our members. We are currently waiting for a response on a number of request we have made.
It is our intent to keep you updated as often as we can when we have new information that affects you. Please reach out to our activists with any concerns or questions you may have. We need to stay strong and united at this very difficult time.

Les Ellsworth



On May 15, 2017, United Steelworkers Local 6166 President Les Ellsworth and Vice President Gord Medwid were called to a meeting by Vale Manitoba Operations Vice President Mark Scott and other senior management. At that meeting, the USW representatives were informed by Mark Scott that Birch Tree Mine would be put on care and maintenance by Oct 1, 2017. Birch tree mine is one of three operating mines in the operation. The reasons that were given to put the Mine on Care and Maintenance were stated as low metal prices, declining ore grades and a number of production issues.

At no time prior to this decision was the Union informed that Vale Manitoba operations would be making a presentation to corporate Vale to put Birch Tree Mine on Care and Maintenance. It came as a surprise and a huge disappointment that Vale Management did not seek or ask for any input from the Union as they had done in the past to potentially prevent this decision. This was strictly a Manitoba Operations Management decision that was ultimately supported by Corporate Vale in Toronto.

The Union was informed that this decision could affect up to 120 of our members, 30 Staff and 50 additional roles. The Union has made it very clear that the collective bargaining agreement will be followed during the closure of the Mine. We are in the process of setting up a joint committee to address the issues we are facing in regards to a possible lay off. It is currently the union’s position that no member of the union will be laid off if there are contractors on site. The Union has been in ongoing discussions with Vale regarding the Smelter and Refinery surface plant closures scheduled for August of 2018 and the process of transitioning the members from the surface plants into the mines. This announcement is expected to complicate that process so it is anticipated that the joint committee will have a large task ahead of them dealing with a number of various concerns from the membership.

It is important to note that as of this writing we have had no contact from our MLA in regards to support from our provincial government.

We, as your union representatives, will do everything that we possibly can within our capabilities along with the CBA to encourage Vale to step up and offer retirement incentives to senior employees in order to mitigate any potential layoffs resulting from Vale’s decision.

Les Ellsworth


President's Welcome

I would like to welcome all of you visiting our USW Local 6166 Website. In particular, the members of USW Local 6166.

Our Website is another tool we will utilize to inform and communicate with our members and the public.

For the most current news updates on issues and developments, please follow the link to visit the news page

We will continue to update the Website as much as possible and pass on information we believe is important to you, the members and the community!


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The United Steelworkers take pride in offering a quality education program to our members and as a part of this, we value continued education as well as providing opportunities to our members families.

We are once again pleased to notify members of upcoming scholarships for members and their children.

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Today is the launch day of the USW’s HangUpOnAbuse campaign. Please find a number of links to the video in French & English, to our website and to a Toronto Star article which was front page of the Business Section in today’s paper. Read more >>>

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