Ekati layoffs dispute continues

As the threat of layoffs at Ekati mine looms, the Union of Northern Workers says Dominion Diamond Mines has yet to provide proof of an absenteeism problem.

Union of Northern Workers says it still hasn’t received proof of Ekati management's complaint of absenteeism

An aerial view of the Ekati mine, 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. (Dominion Diamond Corporation)

As the threat of layoffs at Ekati mine looms, the Union of Northern Workers says Dominion Diamond Mines has yet to provide proof of an absenteeism problem. 

According to the union, Dominion had threatened to lay off 150 employees and replace them with contract workers by Oct. 1, 2018 citing "unacceptably high levels of absenteeism." 

Todd Parsons, the president of the Union of Northern Workers, said that he still hasn't received information to recommend alternatives to contracting out Ekati jobs. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Ekati management had requested the union provide them with an alternative by May 31. 

But Todd Parsons, president for the Union of Northern Workers, said that as of June 1, the union still hasn't received any information to recommend alternatives. As a result, the deadline has been pushed to June 8.

"We have sent numerous requests to the employers to provide us with some documentation, some rationale, around their absenteeism problem," Parsons said. "Without this, the UNW can't help Ekati managers." 

'Emotional' meeting with workers

Tlicho chiefs spent the last three days meeting with the Ekati mine management team, the union, and their Tlicho workers.

Tlicho Grand Chief George Mackenzie said, "It was very emotional when we met with the Tlicho workers."

"We're saying that if absenteeism is the problem, we need proper data and then we can sit down and talk as [a] partnership." said Tlicho Grand Chief George Mackenzie. (George Mackenzie/Facebook)

Many of the workers facing potential layoffs have been working for Ekati "right from the beginning of the mine", he said, and if their jobs are contracted out, they'll lose their benefits. 

Mackenzie said he's surprised the absenteeism complaint wasn't formally discussed with the Tlicho.

"We want to resolve absenteeism as well as [they] do," he said. "We're saying that if absenteeism is the problem, we need proper data and then we can sit down and talk as [a] partnership."

Parsons said the union is on the same page as the Tlicho chiefs.

The union filed a grievance with the employer on May 15, as well as an unfair labour practice complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Labour Board on May 18.

Parsons said the employer must respond to this complaint by June 8 — if not, the union is prepared to move to mediation. If that fails, he said they would move to a hearing.

With files from Huyana Cyprien and Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi

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