United Steelworkers union members in Sudbury are calling Friday's Ontario Labour Relations Board decision a major victory.

The board ruled that Vale violated the Ontario Labour Relations Act by maintaining an unreasonable position with regard to nine workers fired by the company during the year-long strike.

The board said Vale violated provincial labour law by firing the nine Sudbury workers without recourse.

The labour board said the fired workers are entitled to arbitration.

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Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand is calling on nickel mining giant Vale to reinstate the Sudbury miners pending the Ontario Labour Relations Board decision. (Alison Dempster/CBC)

Steelworkers Local 6500 president Rick Bertand said the union is confident the process will eventually see the fired workers get their jobs back — and that would be good news for many of the fired workers who took jobs elsewhere, but hope to return to their positions at Vale.

"This is their hometown," Bertrand said. "This is the place that they were raised and born and they want to come back. It's difficult when you are working out of town and your family is here in Sudbury."

In the meantime, Bertrand is calling on Vale to reinstate the workers, pending the arbitrator's decision. But, in a statement, Vale noted the labour board did not rule on the "correctness or legitimacy of the firings."

The company added decisions to terminate employees are never made lightly and it stands by its actions.

OLRB Ruling USW vs. Vale