July 16, 2012 / 5:19 PM / in 5 years

Wildcat strike hits Vale Canada construction project

TORONTO (Reuters) - A wildcat strike by construction workers at Vale SA’s VALE5.SA Long Harbour nickel processing plant in Eastern Canada dragged into its fifth day on Monday, with hundreds of union members refusing to enter the job site in protest over wages.

Strikers lined the road to the construction project in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, ignoring calls from union representatives to return to work, Canadian media outlets said.

Vale said about half the workforce, or some 1,000 workers, were working at the $3.6 billion construction project on Monday.

The Brazilian mining giant is building the Long Harbour plant to process nickel from its Voisey’s Bay project in Labrador. The facility is expected to start operations in 2013.

The strike started last Thursday, when some 100 crane operators blocked the entrance to the construction site.

The operators were upset over pay, which they say is lower than in other parts of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said. Workers at Long Harbour are represented by a number of unions and all have collective agreements in place.

Vale won a court injunction last week to prevent workers from blocking the road to the project. It was not clear on Monday if the strike would cause project delays.

“This is an important project for us,” said Vale Canada spokesman Cory McPhee. “We need to see this through to completion and these types of interruptions certainly don’t help.”

Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Janet Guttsman

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