The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 793 has urged the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) and the federal Minister of Northern Affairs to approve Baffinland's request to allow the company to increase production to six-million tonnes at the Mary River mine through to the end of the year.
This urgent action, the union says, is needed to ensure that the jobs of hundreds of skilled unionized workers, many of whom are residents of Nunavut, are protected.
On July 31, Baffinland issued hundreds of termination notices to employees.
In an update notice to employees CEO Brian Penney said: "For a number of reasons, the regulatory process is moving more slowly than is necessary to meet Baffinland's operational requirements. As a result, Baffinland must continue to take preparatory steps to rescale its operation in the event that it is not successful in renewing its permit. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I am writing to inform you that in the coming hours, impacted employees will be receiving termination notices.”
These terminations will take effect on September 25 and October 11.
Local 793 represents workers in a wide variety of occupational categories in the construction, industrial and mining sectors. At the Mary River mine, this includes more than 1 000 heavy machinery operators, haul truck drivers, millwrights, electricians, welders, mechanics, crane operators, labourers, warehouse technicians and other occupations.
In total, Baffinland employs more than 2 500 employees and contractor workers.
"We feel both anger and disappointment that our members are being let go, in our view unnecessarily, because of constant delays at the NIRB in making timely decisions, and also at the federal government with more delays on making decisions based on what we already know that it will cost our members their livelihood," said Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher.
"The whole regulatory process is unfair to the workers as their wishes don't seem to be important to anyone," said Gallagher.
"The very fact that termination notices have now been sent has had an immediate and devastating impact on employees at the mine, including many Inuit, and their ability to provide for themselves, their families and their communities."
Losing skilled jobs when the cost of living has skyrocketed right across the country makes receiving termination notices even harder to cope with. "Recovery from the pandemic requires maintaining and more importantly growing quality jobs, not losing them, especially in the impacted communities closest to the mine," said Gallagher.
Baffinland, a joint venture between ArcelorMittal and a US-based private family wealth fund, in May submitted a request for an emergency order from Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal to increase its 2022 shipping limit from 4.2-million tonnes to six-million tonnes as an interim measure. Should the order not be granted, Baffinland said that it would suspend operations for the rest of the year, once its production reached 4.2-million tonnes.