August 31, 2009 / 8:57 PM / in 8 years

UPDATE 2-Canada's Ignatieff urges Vale to resume Inco talks

(Adds details from Clement spokesperson)

By Randall Palmer

SUDBURY, Ontario, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Canadian opposition leader Michael Ignatieff waded into Vale Inco’s (VALE5.SA) dispute with striking workers in Sudbury, Ontario, on Monday, saying the Brazil-based miner should return to the bargaining table.

Speaking in Sudbury, where his Liberal Party is holding caucus meetings, Ignatieff also called on the federal government to release details of commitments Vale made to the government when it bought big Canadian nickel miner Inco, which owned the Sudbury operations, in 2006.

A spokeswoman for Industry Minister Tony Clement later told Reuters that provisions in the Investment Canada Act prevent the minister from revealing the details.

Workers at the Sudbury mines and refineries went on strike in mid-July. Neither side has shown signs it would budge from its position on issues, particularly proposed changes to pension plans and a bonus tied to the price of nickel.

Relations became more strained last week, when the company said it would resume copper and precious metal production using workers from outside the union bargaining unit. Nickel production will remain on hold.

Ignatieff told reporters he had met with union leaders, and that he believed their demands were reasonable given current base metals prices.

“It’s not appropriate for a political party to intervene in a collective bargaining issue. We don’t want to politicize the issue, but we’re concerned about Sudbury,” Ignatieff said.

Nickel and copper prices fell hard when global demand dried up last year, but prices of both have been rallying since March.

Ignatieff said Clement should reveal commitments made by Vale when it took over Inco, noting that the government is currently suing U.S. Steel (X.N) over production cuts and layoffs at the operations of former Canadian steelmaker Stelco, which it bought in 2007.

Workers at Vale Inco’s Voisey’s Bay mine in the eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador have also been on strike since the beginning of August. (Reporting by Randall Palmer, writing by Cameron French; editing by Peter Galloway)

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