In a rematch of the 2009 campaign, current president Murray Nychyporuk and the man he defeated three years ago - former president Les Ellsworth - are vying for leadership of United Steelworkers Local 6166 in Thursday's executive elects, though this time the roles are reversed, with Nychyporuk the incumbent and Ellsworth the challenger.
"What I've seen in the past three years is we're dealing with a different company," says Nychyporuk, whose slate includes current vice-president Dan Dnistransky, who is seeking to retain that position, as well as Gord Medwid, who is running for a trustee position, Craig Costello, in the running for the role of guard, and Scott Clements, seeking election as guide. "We're not dealing with the old Inco."
"Vale is not like the old Inco. It's an international company. It's big. It's huge," says the man who served as president from 2006 to 2009 and is running with Richard Sanche as a candidate for vice president, Harald Stadlbauer for treasurer and Tony Colbourne and Robert Chuckrey as trustee candidates.
When it comes to the last collective agreement the union negotiated with Vale's Manitoba Operations, though, the presidential candidates' opinions differ.
"We had one of our richest deals ever in the local union," says Nychyporuk, all of whose running mates were part of the past bargaining committee.
Ellsworth, on the other hand, says dissatisfaction with that agreement is what inspired him to once again seek the union local's top job.
"I did not have any intentions to run until after the last collective agreement," he says. "I wasn't happy with the last collective agreement."
Ellsworth feels the union lost too much in that deal, in contrast to the one it signed in September 2008, when he was USW Local 6166 president.
"I personally negotiated the first contract with Vale," he says, and managed to get wage increases for his membership at a time when other unions across Canada's were losing ground due to the global recession that was then in its early stages. "We were still getting raises up to 2011."
Among the issues that Ellsworth and his team are campaigning on include restoration of the old nickel bonus, eliminating problems with benefits that union members have experienced since the provider was changed from Blue Cross to Manulife, and ensuring that contractors are not performing tasks that should be performed by union members.
"I believe we see more contractors on our site today than ever before," says Ellsworth, who joined Inco as a labourer in the refinery purification area in 1980 and served as chair of divisional health, safety and environment for 12 years as well as being vice president and financial secretary prior to becoming president. Most significantly, he says, is that contractors have been mining ore in some cases. "We, the team I'm with, will put a stop to that."
Nychyporuk started working at the smelter under Inco in 1987, and served on the health and safety and stewards committees there, before later jointing the contracting out committee while employed at the Birchtree Mine, eventually becoming a steward again and then being elected to the bargaining committee prior to his successful presidential campaign in 2009. He says that under his watch, the union has brought new activists into the fold alongside longer-serving members.
"We'll bring you the strong leadership, a union that puts the membership first," he says of his team. "Right now we're stronger than ever. I'm president right now. I hope to be president again. I'm just a regular worker just like any other is that we represent."
Ellsworth, for his part, is also confident in his chances of regaining the job he previously held for one term.
"I'm looking forward to winning this election," he says.
Nychyporuk defeated Ellsworth for the USW Local 6166 presidency in April 2009 election, which saw 831 union members cast ballots.