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‘Whole community impacted’


The MHA for Labrador West and the Mayor of Labrador City have had a lot to take in recently.  

With the pending 150 job layoffs at IOCC and the notification of 700-800 Wabush Mines retirees that their company health insurance would be lost this month, MHA Nick McGrath said there is much happening right now with the downturn in the economy of Labrador West.

“We all know that living in what we consider a one industry town is a very difficult position to be in,” he said. “Globally, the iron ore industry is suffering and we’re certainly feeling it here,” said McGrath.

He noted with regard to IOCC, it is a privately owned company with a unionized workforce and they have a collective agreement.

“It wouldn’t be the province’s role of government to get in between that,” he said.

“Our role as a provincial government is to help them find solutions and represent the people in the community and that’s what we’re doing. We’ve met with the company and we’re going to be meeting with the union. These recent lay-offs again – it’s having a very negative impact on the community…you have 150 people getting laid off. When you think of the spin-off from that, it equates to about 450-500 that’s affected directly.

He pointed out the province has a mediator that’s involved now and conciliating with both the company and the steelworkers union at IOCC.

“Their role is to make sure that happens in a timely manner and that it progresses forward rather than just stay at a stalemate,” he said.

“I was at the rally (for laid off workers) and I do feel they’re necessary. I was in both of the rallies when we had community support for the hospital. I think that what it does is bring the community together. These rallies are not about getting up and bashing government or companies or unions or anything like that. It’s all about community support.”

‘Disastrous’

The Mayor of Labrador City, Karen Oldford, said the pending lay-offs at IOCC have a ‘dramatic, disastrous effect’ on the community.

“It’s not just the individual families being laid off that feel the impact of it — the whole community feels the impact,” she said.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about Labrador west – that everybody here does come together. Its tight knit and why we see so much support during the rally for the laid off workers that are to be and those are important things to recognize.”

She observed the area still has positive attributes going for it regarding the mining industry such a rail line and hydro but it has to be marketed in a better way.

She noted secondary manufacturing including manganese, dolomite and quartzite  — the latter which could employ up to 200 workers, are seen as ways to diversify the local economy, and can better weather the ups and downs of a boom/bust cycle.

She said another concern is the population base in the town.

“That would be the big worry because every worker and family that is lost is a negative effect on the community,” says Oldford.

She is confident, however, that the residents will see the mining industry ramp up again, adding other mining companies are still here looking at new mines that plan to develop her in the future.

“Alderon has a project, so they’re just looking for investors. That can happen. The Julienne (project), for example, they recently had a group in here looking to be possibly part of one of their partnerships. They also were possibly looking at Alderon well. So, there is interest out there in the world for the economy and for what the ore industry is here in Labrador west and the high quality of ore that’s here.”

Oldford is optimistic Alderon will find its funding — it’s just a matter of ‘when.’

“That’s the unfortunate thing is all the economists out there — nobody can give you a clear picture of when the industry is going to pick back up again,” she said. “But as soon as it does, there are definitely interested investors that will come to the table and want to be a part of these new mines.”

Oldford noted the challenge then is mitigating the loss of the experienced skilled workforce and the difficulty of attracting new people back to the area based on the region’s history.

“In a ideal world — when there’s been downturns in a community like ours — you would see major infrastructure investment happening that would allow us to have people put to work in the interim,” she said.

Loss of benefits

Oldford was also concerned about the loss of the retiree health and life insurance coverage.

“The only protection, (in) my understanding of talking with the provincial government, we have is on pension plans – that’s the only thing that’s protected,” she said. “Unfortunately, right now neither the provincial nor federal government has any protection in place for other benefit plans that unions may have negotiated.”

This is an issue she would like to see explored further since the pension plan protection has only come about in the last number of years.

“It’s not a long term thing — it’s something they put in place after Conrad Black raided a company and took the funded pension. In doing so, the provincial and federal governments learned from that and now companies are required to fund their pensions plan. The provincial government kept a very good eye on them to ensure companies are meeting their unfunded liabilities.

“I’d love to see something happen in the way of policy — as we move forward —  to protect unionized workers in our province and in our country.’

McGrath said the recent news that Wabush Mines retirees would be losing their medical and life insurance policies came as complete surprise to him

“Their pensions are actually 92 per cent, so the pension is very secure,” he said. “But a lot of retirees, especially when we get up in that age — once we get over 55 — tend to need more medical attention through the prescription drugs-we use more. And that’s part of getting older I guess and for a lot of these retirees that’s a big expense.”

McGrath added he has spoken to the Minister of Labour, noting they’re watching the retiree insurance issue very closely and seeking legal advice.

“I’ll also be chatting with union president Jason Penney,” he noted. “I can’t comment on the prior negotiated agreements between Cliff’s and the union (USW Local 6285) because I don’t know the details of the agreement between themselves.

“Hopefully, they’ll find some resolutions because that’s just devastating to the community.”

 

With the pending 150 job layoffs at IOCC and the notification of 700-800 Wabush Mines retirees that their company health insurance would be lost this month, MHA Nick McGrath said there is much happening right now with the downturn in the economy of Labrador West.

“We all know that living in what we consider a one industry town is a very difficult position to be in,” he said. “Globally, the iron ore industry is suffering and we’re certainly feeling it here,” said McGrath.

He noted with regard to IOCC, it is a privately owned company with a unionized workforce and they have a collective agreement.

“It wouldn’t be the province’s role of government to get in between that,” he said.

“Our role as a provincial government is to help them find solutions and represent the people in the community and that’s what we’re doing. We’ve met with the company and we’re going to be meeting with the union. These recent lay-offs again – it’s having a very negative impact on the community…you have 150 people getting laid off. When you think of the spin-off from that, it equates to about 450-500 that’s affected directly.

He pointed out the province has a mediator that’s involved now and conciliating with both the company and the steelworkers union at IOCC.

“Their role is to make sure that happens in a timely manner and that it progresses forward rather than just stay at a stalemate,” he said.

“I was at the rally (for laid off workers) and I do feel they’re necessary. I was in both of the rallies when we had community support for the hospital. I think that what it does is bring the community together. These rallies are not about getting up and bashing government or companies or unions or anything like that. It’s all about community support.”

‘Disastrous’

The Mayor of Labrador City, Karen Oldford, said the pending lay-offs at IOCC have a ‘dramatic, disastrous effect’ on the community.

“It’s not just the individual families being laid off that feel the impact of it — the whole community feels the impact,” she said.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about Labrador west – that everybody here does come together. Its tight knit and why we see so much support during the rally for the laid off workers that are to be and those are important things to recognize.”

She observed the area still has positive attributes going for it regarding the mining industry such a rail line and hydro but it has to be marketed in a better way.

She noted secondary manufacturing including manganese, dolomite and quartzite  — the latter which could employ up to 200 workers, are seen as ways to diversify the local economy, and can better weather the ups and downs of a boom/bust cycle.

She said another concern is the population base in the town.

“That would be the big worry because every worker and family that is lost is a negative effect on the community,” says Oldford.

She is confident, however, that the residents will see the mining industry ramp up again, adding other mining companies are still here looking at new mines that plan to develop her in the future.

“Alderon has a project, so they’re just looking for investors. That can happen. The Julienne (project), for example, they recently had a group in here looking to be possibly part of one of their partnerships. They also were possibly looking at Alderon well. So, there is interest out there in the world for the economy and for what the ore industry is here in Labrador west and the high quality of ore that’s here.”

Oldford is optimistic Alderon will find its funding — it’s just a matter of ‘when.’

“That’s the unfortunate thing is all the economists out there — nobody can give you a clear picture of when the industry is going to pick back up again,” she said. “But as soon as it does, there are definitely interested investors that will come to the table and want to be a part of these new mines.”

Oldford noted the challenge then is mitigating the loss of the experienced skilled workforce and the difficulty of attracting new people back to the area based on the region’s history.

“In a ideal world — when there’s been downturns in a community like ours — you would see major infrastructure investment happening that would allow us to have people put to work in the interim,” she said.

Loss of benefits

Oldford was also concerned about the loss of the retiree health and life insurance coverage.

“The only protection, (in) my understanding of talking with the provincial government, we have is on pension plans – that’s the only thing that’s protected,” she said. “Unfortunately, right now neither the provincial nor federal government has any protection in place for other benefit plans that unions may have negotiated.”

This is an issue she would like to see explored further since the pension plan protection has only come about in the last number of years.

“It’s not a long term thing — it’s something they put in place after Conrad Black raided a company and took the funded pension. In doing so, the provincial and federal governments learned from that and now companies are required to fund their pensions plan. The provincial government kept a very good eye on them to ensure companies are meeting their unfunded liabilities.

“I’d love to see something happen in the way of policy — as we move forward —  to protect unionized workers in our province and in our country.’

McGrath said the recent news that Wabush Mines retirees would be losing their medical and life insurance policies came as complete surprise to him

“Their pensions are actually 92 per cent, so the pension is very secure,” he said. “But a lot of retirees, especially when we get up in that age — once we get over 55 — tend to need more medical attention through the prescription drugs-we use more. And that’s part of getting older I guess and for a lot of these retirees that’s a big expense.”

McGrath added he has spoken to the Minister of Labour, noting they’re watching the retiree insurance issue very closely and seeking legal advice.

“I’ll also be chatting with union president Jason Penney,” he noted. “I can’t comment on the prior negotiated agreements between Cliff’s and the union (USW Local 6285) because I don’t know the details of the agreement between themselves.

“Hopefully, they’ll find some resolutions because that’s just devastating to the community.”

 

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