Baffinland Iron Mines laid off 23 people in October and November, including 12 staff at the company's Mary River and Milne Inlet sites, the company confirmed to CBC.
The company says those let go were primarily in administrative, procurement and managerial roles, but it doesn't appear any of those laid off were Inuit beneficiaries. In fact, Baffinland hired 26 new workers at its sites within the last two months, eight of whom are Inuit.
"Right now they're laying off some southerners so the Inuit [hiring] numbers are getting higher as we go," said Olayuk Akesuk, an executive board member with the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and QIA's liaison with Baffinland.
"As it states in the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement, Inuit should be the last people to be laid off from any mining project."
Akesuk says as far as he knows, no Inuit were laid off. He's been working for months to develop a minimum Inuit employment goal – essentially a document setting a concrete target for an Inuit hiring rate at Baffinland.
Right now the Inuit hiring rate is 18 per cent – down from 20 per cent earlier this year – and Akesuk says half are in management roles. But the hiring rate isn't a number for actual people; it's based on the number of work hours.
While there's no target in place, Akesuk says QIA's goal is for Baffinland to hire as many Inuit as possible.
"That [18 per cent] doesn't include the contractors that are out there now," Akusuk said. "We're hoping to see more Inuit working in that field. With the minimum Inuit employment goal we're working on, I think it will get higher as we go along."
The final document for the minimum Inuit employment goal document should be ready after the new year.