One of the Vale workers fired during a bitter year-long labour dispute is speaking out about an arbitrator's ruling the dismissal was justified.
Jason Patterson was one of three miners terminated for what Vale called “bad behavior” during the strike.
From courtrooms to arbitration meetings, for almost four years Jason Patterson has been living with the events of Jan. 19, 2010.
“You know you see the comment sections, and stories that are put out about us and I mean there's some pretty nasty things that get said about you,” he said.
Patterson was riding in a truck driven by fellow Steelworker Michael French, when French pulled over and assaulted a Vale employee jogging along the road.
That employee was known to be crossing the picket line.
Within days, the company fired all three Steelworkers who were in the truck.
Only French was later found guilty of a crime in court.
Patterson maintains he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I knew it was a bad situation, I knew that,” he said.
“I'm treasurer of the local union, I'm on the bargaining committee. I have a lot more things to worry about at that point in time than one individual crossing the picket line.”
'I am telling the truth'
However, the arbitrator ruled Patterson verbally assaulted the Vale worker — something Patterson denies.
“I do not like being called a liar. I did not lie,” he said. “And that's the most frustrating part … you go through this process and you are thinking 'I'm going to be OK because I am telling the truth'.”
Patterson said the ruling also hurt because he was offered a deal early in the process with conditions that would have let him return to work at Vale.
He didn't take that deal because he believed in the arbitration process, he said.
“We refused any deal that was put in front of us because we felt that no matter what, we didn't do anything wrong.”
But the arbitrator ruled the attack was premeditated and all three men played some role.
Now Patterson said he's worried the high-profile ruling will make it impossible to find work in the city.
“And I don't think my job prospects in the city of Sudbury are going to be very good,” he said.
“The unfortunate thing is I have two young boys — an 8-year-old who has been living through this for half of his life, and a 10-year-old … I might have to move out of the city and leave behind my kids in order to get a job because of this situation.”
Patterson currently has a position with Steelworkers Local 6500, but said it's not clear if he will be able to keep that job without being a Vale employee.
Meanwhile...Vale has said it's pleased with this week's arbitration decision and looks forward to putting the matter to rest.
However, the Steelworkers say they will seek a judicial review in the hopes of overturning the arbitrator's decision.
Read the provincial arbitrator's decision below: