Labrador west labour leaders meeting with new MHA this week

Graham Letto will meet with IOC and other union members in Labrador City and Wabish this week to discuss labour relation issues.
The main entrance to the Iron Ore Company of Canada mine in Labrador City. IOC is majority owned by Rio Tinto, one of the world's largest mining companies. (John Gaudi/CBC)

Graham Letto is in Labrador West this week to discuss a number of issues in the region, including labour relations. 

The area's MHA will sit down with the Iron Ore Company Canada and the United Steelworkers Local 5795 to address mounting worker grievances, as well as discuss the region's economic outlook in general.

In addition to representing Labrador West, Letto is also the parliamentary secretary for Service NL, the government body that oversees the Labour Relations Agency.

Labrador West MHA Graham Letto is "optimistic" about the upcoming meetings. (CBC)

An IOC worker told the CBC earlier this month that he, along with 150 other employees, were suspended from after calling in sick over the holiday seasons.

"There may be a role for the Labour Relations Agency to play here and if there is then certainly I am prepared to work with the unions and the company to get some of this issues resolved," Letto told CBC News by phone.

"I see that as a priority given what's happening over the last few months and especially what happened over Christmas with the suspensions and whatnot and the number of outstanding grievances — over 3,000 I understand."

Local MHA to meet with IOC and United Steelworkers Local 5795 (CBC)

The once prosperous region has been hit hard recently. Iron ore prices have plummeted, Cliff's Natural Resources shutdown Wabush Mines in 2014 as well as the Bloom Lake mine just across the border in Quebec.

That reality makes these meetings even more important for Letto and the newly elected Liberal government.

Iron ore prices have plunged from a high of $US130 per tonne in January 2014 to roughly $43. ((Iron Ore Company of Canada))

"There are a number of issues to discuss, of course, with the towns given the economic climate in the region," Letto told CBC News by phone.

"We want to see how we can work together to best weather the storm that we are going through right now. I'm looking forward to meeting with all the organizations, the individuals and the towns to see what the priorities are and to work together on them going forward."

Heavy trucks once used to haul ore at Wabush Mines are now parked, gathering rust. The operation, which employed nearly 500 workers, closed in 2014. (CBC)

Letto knows the region and the issues surrounding it well. Before winning the MHA's seat in last year's election, he served as a city councillor and mayor in Labrador City. He hopes this weeks meetings will help mend relations between workers and the area's main employer.

"[I think] we can find a way forward where both organizations and both sides can work together to resolve some of the outstanding issues and I know there's many, with the grievances and whatnot," he said.

"I think if we look at it and go at it reasonably we can find a solution and I am optimistic that we can work together in the best interest of  all the people of Labrador West."

When asked for a comment on the upcoming meetings a spokesperson for the Iron Ore Company of Canada says meetings like these are a regular occurrence.

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