North

Nunavut's Mary River mine workers vote to ratify 1st union deal

The iron ore mine on northern Baffin Island employs more than 800 people and the wage-benefit deal covers all workers except managers at the mine.

Wage-benefit agreement covers all workers except managers

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 793, represents heavy equipment operators in Ontario and Nunavut. (Baffinland)

Employees at Baffinland's Mary River mine have voted to ratify a collective agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 793, which covers Ontario and Nunavut.

The iron ore mine on northern Baffin Island employs more than 800 people and the wage-benefit deal covers all workers except managers at the mine. The ratification came in with 79.3 per cent of those who voted in favour.

The deal that comes into effect on May 1 covers what Mike Gallagher, the union's business manager, calls, "bread and butter issues."

Employees will get a 3.5 per cent increase to their annual salary on May 1. Each year after that, their salaries will increase by another 2.5 per cent, until Jan. 1, 2022.

On Jan. 1, 2023 — when the collective agreement expires — employees' annual salaries will increase by three per cent, unless the price of iron ore is below $65 US, in which case it will rise 2.5 per cent.

Employees also get a $1,500 signing bonus on May 1, said Gallagher, as well as $300 per year to reimburse for airline change fees.

Along with this, Gallagher said employees' annual travel allowance will increase by $720, and their work schedules will be improved so that everyone gets a turn to spend Christmas and other holidays away from the mine.

The Qiqiktani Inuit Association (QIA) represents Inuit employees and has been working to improve conditions for Inuit at the mine, and to increase the number of Inuit hires, through an Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement with Baffinland.

Gallagher says he hasn't met with the QIA, but that the union honours the Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement between the QIA and Baffinland.

He also says, although it hasn't been discussed, the union is open to talking about building a training centre in Pond Inlet — the closest community to the Mary River mine — so Inuit employees can learn how to operate heavy equipment locally.

"We wish to support the community," said Gallagher. "[When] they want to take advantage of any job opportunities and training opportunities that exist."

The QIA declined comment, saying in an email that the collective agreement ratified by mine workers is a Baffinland issue.

"We do our part to protect Inuit employees at Mary River through measures negotiated in the IIBA," wrote the spokesperson. "Any additional protections or benefits negotiated by a union fall outside our scope."

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