Subsidy keeps Agnico Eagle’s Nunavut mine workers on payroll

Company says it aims to retain Inuit workers “throughout these difficult times as much as possible”

Nunavut workers at Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s gold mines will continue to receive 75 per cent of their base salaries until May 9, the company said on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Agnico Eagle)

By Jane George

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Nunavut workers received some good news this week: they will continue to be paid 75 per cent of their base salary for the next three weeks, although they have not been on site since March.

“Agnico Eagle is taking advantage of the federal government wage subsidy announced recently, which will keep all employees not required to work and Nunavummiut who were sent home on our payroll,” Agnico Eagle said on Tuesday, April 21.

Starting on March 24, Agnico Eagle sent its Nunavut-based workforce home for at least four weeks with pay to protect them from any exposure to COVID-19 infection from the mine’s southern workers.

That four-week period ended on Saturday, April 18.

Due to the federal subsidy and a company top-up, Nunavut employees will receive 75 per cent of their base salary for the next three weeks, that is, until Saturday, May 9.

The federal program aims to encourage big companies like Agnico Eagle to keep workers on their payrolls so that they don’t need to apply for employment insurance.

“It is our objective to maintain the employment of our Inuit workforce throughout these difficult times as much as possible,” the company said on Tuesday.

The company operates two gold mines in Nunavut: Meliadine near Rankin Inlet and its Meadowbank complex near Baker Lake.

There are roughly 400 to 500 Nunavut-based workers and contractors now off site.

As for what happens after May 9, Agnico Eagle said “the situation will be re-evaluated” and the company will notify employees and contractors when or if that changes.

“The decision to return our Inuit employees and contractors to work will be made in partnership with the concerned authorities,” the company said.

Meanwhile, testing of all 516 Agnico Eagle employees at its Meliadine site has been completed and all results were negative for COVID-19, the company said.

The mine site started running a testing pilot project led by Dr. Gary Kobinger, the director of the Research Centre on Infectious Diseases at Université Laval, on April 6.

The mobile lab can return test results for COVID-19 within three hours, on average.

The lab has received provincial certifications from Ontario Public Health and Quebec Public Health and is using a diagnostic test approved by Health Canada, Agnico Eagle said.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Chris on

    The deal to build that mine was to have 50% Inuit workforce from the Kivalliq region and they now speak as if they are doing the community a favor by keeping them on the payroll, while using nearly exclusively non-Inuit workers.

    • Posted by The Never Ending Gripe on

      Being an avid reader of the local Facebook ‘Rankin Inlet News; i.e. The Rant and Rag, the boundless energy people have when it comes to bitching about the mines never ceases to amaze me.
      Please, let us know how you would handle the current situation Chris. I’m sure you have some tremendously interesting ideas and insights.

    • Posted by Up the Game on

      All things be equal yes. However, our local workforce (our ‘workfarce’ as I’ve heard it called more than once) needs to up its education and training game.

      We often can’t compete with the workforce from other parts of the country because of poor basic skills and a very lax attitude towards time, schedules, commitments, etc..
      That’s on us, no one else.

      Until attitudes, professionalism levels, and education and training change, and we start to adapt to the needs of the primary employer, we will continue to be a less desirable workforce.

  2. Posted by Chris on

    It was merely luck there have been no cases yet. The company risked bringing a virus to a closed Hamlet which lacks adequate medical facilities to accommodate an outbreak like the coronavirus. In my view, the company should have ceased operations, which is what the majority of local people appear to wanted the company to do.

  3. Posted by Sam on

    Employment Insurance,will pay the inuit workforce,up to 40 weeks,until the inuit leadership,feels it is safe for people to return to work.

  4. Posted by Chris Wilson on

    Ulaakut Sam, yes EI will pay employees for up to 40 weeks at $500 a week max……..that is not even enough to pay rent, let alone food or anything else……… I am amazed that Agnico Eagle was able to access a subsidy on April 23rd (when this story was published) that only opened for applications on Monday April 27th (today) . I would love someone to explain that one to me? I also note that Agnico is only paying 75% of the base salary. Does that mean premiums are not being paid anymore? Money might be getting tight for some?

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