Union leaders representing Inco Ltd. workers in Manitoba and Ontario have demanded a meeting with Inco executives to discuss short-term layoff protection plans necessitated by company shutdowns this winter, industry sources said Thursday.

The leaders are upset that Inco reneged on an earlier promise to notify the company before making any final decision on operation shutdowns, they said.Inco announced Oct. 12 that it will suspend operations at its Sudbury, Ontario, nickel division for eight weeks and at its Thompson, Manitoba, division for four weeks starting in December. In addition, four-day work weeks will be implemented following the shutdown in Thompson. The shutdowns are intended to reduce nickel output by 60 million pounds, which should help reduce global surplus of the metal.

Dave Campbell, president of Local 6200 in Sudbury, said that the unions met with Inco on a casual basis before the decision was made, however no official talks were held. Mr. Campbell said during the brief meetings, Inco assured the union leaders that they will be called in for official talks prior to any closure decision.

"This move by Inco has set back union relations with the company 10 years," Mr. Campbell said.

Mr. Campbell said that there is a clause in the collective agreement between the company and union that states a meeting must be held prior to a mine closing. But because the shutdown involved all of the Sudbury and Thompson mines, it did not classify as an infringement of the labor contract, he said.

Blake McGrath, president of Local 6166 in Thompson, said that if the company had met with the unions in the first place, other options could have been explored that may have made the shutdowns unnecessary. He said that through working with the union in the past, Inco has reduced production costs by 15 percent to 20 percent.

The two union leaders said they wish to discuss with Inco a supplementary unemployment insurance policy for workers that will give workers 95 percent of their existing wages. In order to do so, Inco would only have to put aside a fraction of total revenues generated from the Sudbury and Thompson divisions.

Bob Purcell, manager of corporate relations for Inco, said the company is aware of the request and will schedule meetings as soon as the two parties agree to a time.

Mr. Purcell declined to comment as to why the company made its shutdown decision before official meetings were held with the unions, adding it was a senior management decision.

Inco employees are represented by Local 6166 in Thompson, 6200 and 6600 in Sudbury and 6500 in Port Colborne, Ontario.