North

Union pressing ahead with grievance over Ekati Diamond Mine suspension

The Union of Northern Workers is filing a grievance despite resolving some of the issues with Dominion Diamond Mines after operations were suspended in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Differences remain over layoffs and severance for mine workers

The Ekati diamond mine, about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. Operations at the mine were suspended in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Dominion Diamond Corporation)

A union representing workers at the Ekati Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories is pressing ahead with a grievance, despite resolving some of the issues with the mine's operator.

Operations at the mine were suspended in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a letter posted to the Union of Northern Workers' (UNW) website, president Todd Parsons says issues over rotation, personal leave and forced vacation leave payout have been resolved but differences still remain over layoff and severance.

"The UNW will use the grievance process in the collective agreement and will advance the matter quickly as a priority for the members," he wrote.

In a statement to CBC News, Parsons added the UNW is supportive of helping employers protect the health, safety and job security of workers and the public.

"I encourage all employers to work with unions on major policies or employment changes in order to head off any possible issues that might be easily solved collaboratively," he wrote.

In response to Parsons' letter, the mine's operator, Dominion Diamond Mines, issued a statement to CBC News acknowledging it has been a challenging time for all of its employees.

"We have been working hard to proactively engage with the union to address and resolve these concerns, and will continue to do so throughout this unprecedented time," the statement read.

"We look forward to recommencing operations when it is safe to do so, and assisting our employees to return to their jobs with Dominion."

According to Parsons' letter, a new permit signed between the union and Dominion will enable a move to a "three by three rotation" (three weeks on-site and three weeks off-site) from April 14 to July 28, in an effort to support the health and safety of employees and the public by minimizing travel to and from the mine site, about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Dominion confirmed the rotation is for the minimal care and maintenance crews remaining on site.

"There is currently no timeline established for this period of suspended operations," said a spokesperson for the company in a statement.

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