With the grand opening of the Gahcho Kue mine, the largest new mine to come on line in recent years, set for Tuesday, a union representing culinary and janitorial workers say they are considering a strike which the union leader says could shut down the camp. The threat of industrial action follows stalled negotiations with the contractor employing them, according to a report by CBC Canada. The mine is co-owned by De Beers Canada (51%) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49%) and began mining its first diamonds last month.
Tony Santavenere, vice-president of Teamsters Local 213 which represents the workers, said strike action could shut down the camp. "If people aren't eating and sleeping in clean places, they're not going to be working," he said. About 60 workers for a mine contractor, including the camp's cooks, sous chefs, janitors and camp attendants, organized about six months ago. Santavenere said contract negotiations with their employer, ESS Compass Group, have been going on for the last three months. He said workers were being paid about $25 an hour under the previous contractor, but saw their wages drop to about $15 an hour when ESS Compass Group won the tender. That's about $2 more than the N.W.T. minimum wage. Santavenere said it's also $10 to $15 lower than what workers are paid at other camps across the country, the report states. The workers, about 60% of whom are Aboriginal, are also seeking additional medical and dental benefits.
He said that in an unofficial poll, 99% of the workers backed strike action. The union plans to file an official application with the federal labor board. That process could take two months.
In a statement, De Beers said it would be "inappropriate" to comment due to the ongoing bargaining process between ESS and its employees. The miner said the mine is still ramping up to full production and it's looking forward to the official opening.