The Ontario Labour Relations Board has ruled that Vale violated the Labour Relations Act by banning a United Steelworkers union official from its property.
The case stems from the bitter year-long strike at the mining company's operations in Sudbury.
The company fired several employees during the strike — including Patrick Veinot, who is also vice-president of the Steelworkers Local 6500.
Despite his status as a union official, Vale has not been allowing Veinot on its property to conduct union business. The Ontario Labour Relations Board ruled Thursday that this is a violation and Veinot must be allowed on the property.
"We believe our actions with respect to this matter were appropriate, however, we acknowledge the decision and will comply with the order as outlined by the Board," wrote Vale spokesperson Angie Robson in an e-mail Friday.
The lawyer for the Steelworkers, Brian Shell, said the ruling shows the company viewed Veinot "as something of a pariah on the theory that, because he was one of the discharged striking employees, he wasn't allowed on company property, in effect disapproving of the fact that he was the local union vice president."
The case of Veinot and eight other employees who lost their jobs during the job action is also still before the labour board.
Veinot said the ruling is a positive indication of what could come next.
"We had hoped for a decision before Christmas … it was fantastic," he said. "It’s been a long time coming, so it was a great feeling."
He said not being able to conduct union business on Vale property was "frustrating, to say the least."