The fate of eight Vale workers fired during the year-long strike is now in the hands of the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

The board heard final arguments yesterday from lawyers for both the United Steelworkers Union Local 6500 and nickel mining giant Vale.

The fired Steelworkers sat together at the front of a crowded room. They were cut for what Vale calls "bad behaviour during the strike."

The workers were on strike at Vale from July 2009 to July 2010.

And the eight who were fired didn't get to plead their case to an arbitrator, because there was no collective agreement at the time.

Union lawyer Brian Shell said what they're asking for is very simple:

"These workers — these eight — [should] have an opportunity to hear the evidence against them, then test the evidence against them, and to have the evidence against them evaluated by an independent neutral."

Waiting on the sidelines

No one from Vale was available for an interview.

However in a statement, the company said it did nothing wrong and bargained in good faith.

Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said he's looking forward to the labour relations board's ruling.

"And hopefully it's going to be early in the New Year because it has been long enough and very difficult on the eight families that have been waiting on the sidelines."

He said there is now a light at the end of the tunnel after yesterday's final hearing.

"Obviously it's been a long process … this has been our 14th meeting since … it all began. But I'm just very, very confident and I'm just hoping for a positive result at the end of this."

Bertrand said he often speaks with the eight workers and noted they're eager to return to their jobs.

Vale stands by its decision to fire the workers.

The board will send its written decision out in the coming weeks or months.

The hearing, which took place Thursday at the Holiday Inn in Sudbury, was open to the public. About 200 people were in attendance.