North

Union accuses Dominion Diamond of 'union-busting' in plan to lay off 150 workers

The union representing unionized workers at Dominion Diamond’s Ekati mine says the company has not backed up its claims of 'unsustainable' absenteeism among its workers and is accusing it of 'union-busting.'

UNW says the company has not provided statistics to back up claims of workers not showing up

An aerial view of the Ekati mine, 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. The union representing workers there says the company has not backed up its claims of 'unsustainable' absenteeism from workers. (Dominion Diamond Corporation)

The union representing unionized workers at Dominion Diamond's Ekati mine says the company has not backed up its claims of "unsustainable" absenteeism among its workers and accuses it of "union-busting." 

The Union of Northern Workers told its members earlier this week that Dominion Diamond threatened to lay off 150 workers and replace them with contractors.

In response, Dominion's CEO said that the proposed layoffs were a result of "high levels of absenteeism that have negatively impacted the costs of these operations."

"I don't think this is an employer that likes to work with a unionized workforce, it does put in place the requirements of a collective agreement. It certainly frustrates some of their decision-making as an employer," said Todd Parsons, the president of the union, on Friday.

"Certainly the bottom line is what's driving a lot of their decisions."

Parsons wrote a letter to members Wednesday outlining the union's concerns, blaming "poor management" for the proposed layoffs. He also said the union will file a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board about the proposal.

"It is purely a cost-cutting mechanism to increase profitability for the private owner and nothing short of union-busting."

The Ekati mine is located approximately 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. Many of the jobs proposed for layoff notices are held by Indigenous northerners, including haul truck drivers, graders, bulldozers and water truck operators. 

The mine has a target of 63 per cent N.W.T. residents, but it only reported fewer than half of its 1,700 workers live in the North in its 2017 socio-economic report.

Dominion has yet to respond to requests from CBC News about information on absenteeism.

With files from Richard Gleeson

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