Dominion Diamond to stop flying workers from Edmonton
Mining company plans to end Edmonton pick-ups for Ekati workers next spring
Dominion Diamond Corporation says it plans to stop flying employees from Edmonton to its Ekati diamond mine, but a union that represents hundreds of workers at the mine says it's not a done deal.
Companies that operate diamond mines in N.W.T. have been flying in workers from out of the territory for years. Dominion Diamond says it's going to stop offering the charter flights to workers at its Ekati mine next spring.
In a statement, the company said "those employees who live outside the Northern communities designated as pick-up points will make their own arrangements to the N.W.T. in order to meet our flights to Ekati."
The Union of Northern Workers represents about 450 workers at Ekati.
Todd Parsons, president of the Union of Northern Workers, said the elimination of the charter flights is going to be a big issue when collective bargaining resumes in February.
"The union members' concerns are primarily around the southern workforce that were hired — their point of hire was Edmonton — and that was a contract that they signed when they started work for DDC," he said.
"So it is going to be a priority for the union to address and protect those members' interests throughout the bargaining process."
After a meeting of the Northern premiers Thursday, N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod voiced his opposition to the fly-in-fly-out workforce the mines use.
"I really believe if you work in the North, you should live in the North," he said. "We have about 3,000 workers that fly in and out. They work in the North and live in the south."
The N.W.T. government estimates that workers who fly in and out cost the territory hundreds of millions of dollars in lost taxes, business, and federal funding.
In their socio-economic agreements, all of the diamond mining companies promised not to pay for workers' flights from the south to the N.W.T. But, for the most part, the government has said the flights are necessary to keep the mines open.
"If the companies weren't allowed to fly in workers, those mines wouldn't be in operation today," said David Ramsay, minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. "That's the stark reality we're living with here."
A Dominion Diamond Corporation official said the company may answer questions later this fall.