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Bouwa Whee takes over catering contract at Gahcho Kue diamond mine

Bouwa Whee Catering from Ndilo, N.W.T., has won a long-term catering contract at the Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine, replacing the previous contractor after its workers threatened to strike due to low wages.

Previous contractor exited after employees threatened to strike

Workers prepare food at the grand opening of the Gahcho Kue diamond mine in September. Bouwa Whee Catering from Ndilo will take over the catering contract at the mine in December. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Bouwa Whee Catering from Ndilo, N.W.T., has won a long-term catering contract at the Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine, replacing the previous contractor after its workers threatened to strike due to low wages.

The previous contractor, ESS Compass Group, notified the operator of the mine, De Beers Canada, in September that it intended to exit the contract.

Bouwa Whee is part of the Det'on Cho Corporation, which is 100 per cent owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. It currently holds contracts at the Diavik and Snap Lake diamond mines.

Tom Ormsby, head of external and corporate affairs for De Beers Canada, said it would be up to Bouwa Whee to decide how it moves forward with the roughly 60 unionized culinary and cleaning employees at Gahcho Kue.

"That's at the discretion of the new company because they are a contract partner," Ormsby said.

"They will manage their business as they see accordingly."

Marcel Dionne, an advisor with Teamsters Local 213, is disappointed that De Beers did not include language in the new contract that would ensure Bouwa Whee would employ the current unionized workforce.

"They have given basically three years of their life to De Beers and at the end of the day they were all terminated," said Dionne.

"Around 40 of them or so have put their application in because they saw their jobs advertised in the Northwest Territories.

"We can't force the new employees to hire these people, but there has to be a reason why they don't want to hire them."

Dionne said the union will consider a human rights complaint if justified.

Brad Morrissey, director of camp catering with Bouwa Whee Catering, said due to a reduction of camp size at Snap Lake, the company has plenty of internal employees ready to fill the Gahcho Kue contract.

Morrissey said unionized employees are encouraged to apply.

"We have a deep pool of northern employees that we keep as casuals for our other mine sites," he said.

"We will bring the folks that we know, that have worked with us before. We'll bring them back and we'll pick the most qualified team."

Bouwa Whee takes over the catering contract on Dec. 9.

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