Dominion Diamond, workers' union, reach tentative agreement in Ekati dispute

Entry-level employees at Ekati mine that were facing layoffs will be able to keep their jobs once the terms of the agreement are ratified.

Company had threatened to lay off 150 employees over claims of absenteeism

Approximately 150 entry-level workers at the Ekati mine that were facing potential layoffs will be able to keep their jobs once the agreement is ratified. (Dominion Diamond Corporation)

Dominion Diamond Mines and the Union of Northern Workers have reached a tentative agreement in their dispute over employees at Ekati mine.

According to a joint press release Tuesday afternoon, Dominion and the union reached an agreement Monday "that will see changes that both parties feel will address their respective concerns."

Once ratified, approximately 150 entry-level workers at the mine that were facing potential layoffs will be able to keep their jobs.

"We are pleased that we have been able to agree on an alternative approach that saves our members' jobs. The tentative agreement will provide job security for all our bargaining unit members," union president Todd Parsons said in a statement.

This is a good day for Ekati and its employees.- Dominion CEO Patrick Evans

The agreement comes after Dominion notified the union on May 10 that, unless an agreement could be reached, it would contract out a portion of its surface operations by Oct.1 citing "excessive costs" due to "unacceptably high levels of absenteeism."

Todd Parsons, the president of the Union of Northern Workers, says he's pleased with the agreement. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

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

Many of the jobs are held by Indigenous northerners and during the dispute Tlicho chiefs met with Ekati management and workers to discuss their concerns.

"This is a good day for Ekati and its employees," Dominion CEO Patrick Evans stated.   

"Our preference is that our own employees perform the surface mining operations work and the new agreement allows us to do this, while ensuring we are able to control our costs by addressing the longstanding absenteeism issues and improve the morale and productivity of our employees."

The tentative agreement also includes terms for a new collective agreement that will be in effect through May 2022.

The terms of the agreement will take effect once they are ratified by both parties' principals which will be finalized by July 25.

The press release says neither party will be providing further comments about the terms of the agreement at this time.

CBC has contacted both the union and Dominion for an interview. 

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