‘We’re all feeling the hurt’: Baffinland workers wonder what’s next after layoff notice
Mining company sent out layoff notices Sunday
When Adamee Atsiqtaq received a layoff notice Sunday from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp, he says his first thought was, “How am I going to feed my family?”
Options are few for Atsiqtaq, an apprentice electrician since March 2019, who lives with his wife, son and two daughters in Clyde River, a hamlet of approximately 1,000 people.
It would take a month of income support to equal a week’s pay of about $1,500, and he won’t have graduated from his apprenticeship by the time he’s let go, either.
“I may have to move down south to further my education,” he said in an interview. “I don’t want to move down south, but I would have no choice.”
Atsiqtaq is one of 200 Inuit, and more than 1,100 employees in total, who received a layoff notice Sunday from the Oakville-based mining company.
He said he and his colleagues are all wondering what they are going to do once they are laid off, and how they can avoid collecting welfare cheques.
“We’re all feeling the hurt,” he said. “My fellow Inuit, they’re feeling the hurt too. They’re worried.”
On May 20, Baffinland applied to the Nunavut Impact Review Board to increase its shipping limit from 4.2 million tonnes of iron ore to six million tonnes for 2022, after its previous permit to do so expired at the end of 2021.
Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal — after denying a request by Baffinland to go over the review board’s head and approve the increase — has told the board to treat the application as a priority because of the immediacy of the layoffs.
Baffinland won’t let its employees go if the review is completed by Aug. 26 and Vandal grants the permit, said spokesperson Peter Akman in an email.
Issuing the layoff notices to employees is a step taken “out of an abundance of caution,” he said.
If the review isn’t done and the permit isn’t granted by Aug. 26, the company predicts it will ship 4.2 million tonnes by early October, when “it will have no choice but to cease production,” Akman said, and lay off employees in two rounds, on Sept. 25 and Oct. 11.
Until that decision is made, Atsiqtaq and his co-workers are in limbo, waiting on an impending final day at work in less than two months.
He wants to see Vandal “approve everything,” which also refers to Phase 2, Baffinland’s expansion proposal that would allow it to build a 110-km railway, increase its shipping limit to 12 million tonnes per year and construct a second dock at the Milne Inlet port.
Atsiqtaq said he has felt pressure to keep his opinions about the expansion plans and shipping limit increase to himself, out of fear of speaking publicly in favour of the proposal.
But now, his job and 1,000 others are close to being terminated.
“If they can hear the anti-miners, we also want to be heard,” Atsiqtaq said. “We are crying, too.”
It’s a sentiment shared by Mike Gallagher, business manager for International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 793.
“The whole regulatory process is unfair to the workers as their wishes don’t seem to be important to anyone,” he said in a news release Tuesday afternoon.
The layoff notices had an “immediate and devastating impact on employees at the mine, including many Inuit, and their ability to provide for themselves, their families and their communities,” he said.
Gallagher blamed the layoffs on delays in the review board’s process.
“We feel both anger and disappointment that our members are being let go, in our view unnecessarily, because of constant delays at the NIRB in making timely decisions,” he said.
Gallagher did not respond to interview requests.
1500/wk x 52 wks = $78,000/yr. Potential 350 laid off Inuit workers x $78,000= $ 27,300,000.00; Aside from the potential wage loss, you cannot put a dollar sign on the mental health of displaced ( laid-off) workers.
I can’t believe the Nunavut Impact Review Board would drag their feet on this, there will be big layoffs and people will suffer because of this, why is there a NIRB anyway? The mine isn’t impacting anything anyway, the animals will find different routes and ways to work around the mine, they always do in any other part of the world. Only here in Nunavut do they go on and on about this type of stuff, get over it and get the mine running at full capacity.
All I can say is that Baffinland must be thankful that they didn’t have to wait for the Land Use Plan to be completed before their project was approved. There must be some accountability deadlines for these type of reviews. You have 30-60-90 days to complete the review if not you must file for an extension with the Feds. To submit a proposal and have it sit on someones desk until they see fit to start working on it, is not a business model that works in the real world.
I hope they get approve for both the 6 million and the 12 million. Nunavut’s poverty can’t only rely on hunting country food. Also, country food can’t pay bills forcing Inuit sell country food which is not in our culture to do so. This creates over hunting and wastage.
Most of the communities support this mine, a lot of people support it, I can’t believe one community and a hand full of family members who get contracts from Baffinland are so vocal because of greed, those few family members want more contracts, more money and are willing to use the people to get layoff notices and out of work and training.
What we need right now is for the ones that are in support of this mine to start being vocal too, don’t be scared of these few families, let your voices be heard too.
It’s the non-indigenous bleeding heart environmentalist like the two saviours hired by Pond HTO and Hamlet that are benefiting from this. They don’t have to worry about putting food on the table. Most Inuit have low education and live in poverty. Mining job provides opportunities for Inuit that have very few opportunities with the government of Nunavut that systematically discriminates against Inuit.
You’re right, there are a lot of poorly educated people in Nunavut, and that makes them more susceptible to the manipulation of information than most; including the abundance coming from eco-colonial interest groups from the south.
There are more forces here than ‘southerners’ alone, though I understand it is always fashionable and frictionless to blame everything on them.
Where do the Inuit orgs stand on this, the HTO’s, our MP? There is plenty of economic and ideological interest aligned against the mine from within our own society too.
Let’s clean the land and recycling is the best
Oh jeff i bet your a Trudeau fan as well i had my terminatoon notice on sunday too it doesn’t just affect the innuit i live in Saskatchewan and worked at mary river mine . The royalties from bmi is 25% of nunavut income what are they gonna recycle to replace that 25% ???
cool story Nev, hard to feel bad though, although Baffinland accounts for 25% of Nunavut’s GDP, how much actually stays within Nunavut? How much of it actually benefits the communities impacted? That is a question I have yet to find out. So yes, 25% of an entire territory’s GDP is very substantial… but at the same time, as you’ve stated and many others in this story and others as well, they are employees at the mine who have enjoyed working at the mine, but travel home somewhere down south every few weeks… that is really where the money and benefits are going, not to where it should be.
Oh gee, I dunno… This much (as of September 2020)
Get a grip.
Cool link bro, remember Sanirajak community members and local business people stating to the media earlier this winter/spring that they haven’t seen the money that Baffinland claims to have given. Why are you posting a link to Baffinland? Have these amounts been confirmed? And by whom? Themselves? Lol nice try, I have a deadly grip
Ahh yes, the inevitable “the company would just say whatever” mantra. In reality, you’re parsing the information from the link without looking at the totality. What about the wages that you claim are all going down south? Are you going to say that Baffinland lied about the wages paid?
Your original statement was that the money is going down south, that is in fact, just outright false information. Granted, I will give you some space and say that some numbers could be inflated, because at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be a surprise. But if you think for a minute the only benefits stand to the south, you’re just living in a dream world and millions of dollars has been spent in the north.
Heck, we saw BIM employees in the community coming to fix the freezers – or was that just something that happened on a piece of paper? So, yeah, no benefits were seen up here?
Cool rebuttal for a weak grip.
Recycling is a SCAM. Investigation reports have proven that over and over.
Baffinland represents cultural genocide far more than anything residential schools ever did. This and other mining projects threaten the culture, as it has now evolved. That’s the culture of unemployment and unemployability, drugs and alcohol addictions, homelessness, food insecurity and welfare dependency. Inuit should be proud of those highly qualified and underpaid members of the Nunavut Impact Review Board.
How can it be a “Genocide”? The only genocide we got is our jobs are being terminated. Like I posted before, animals, mammals, migrate. They don’t die off. They just move. And N.I.R.B workers are well off with the royalties they get from B.I.M.. It must be totally embarrassing to be you.
Social media rewards expressions of outrage, so the gratuitous use of ‘genocide,’ obviously uncoupled from standard meaning happens within an incentive structure that encourages distortions that pay no respect to calibration with reality.
I work at the mine,
1300 people received a lay off notice/termination beginning in sept. I received mine aswell.
It sucks for us southerns & the Inuit , I really enjoyed working there.
I’m not sure where I will work next.
People shit on baffinland all the time, they tried everything to keep this mine going but got moth balled by NIRB.
Thanks nirb for making us all un-employed.
People also forget, baffinland is a central hub for all the local communities to communicate and see each other.
It’s hard to travel around Baffin Island, lots of locals love it and enjoy seeing their families and friend from far.
dont worry, the Nuluuja land guardians will save us!!
Send them to an island that they can protect.