MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Ekati mineowners sue striking workers

Published by MAC on 2006-05-22

Ekati mineowners sue striking workers

Toronto Globe and Mail

22nd May 2006

YELLOWKNIFE -- Ekati diamond mine owner BHP Billiton Ltd. is suing its striking union for allegedly threatening and harassing workers who chose to return to the job.

In a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, the company outlines what it calls "illegal acts" by members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada and its affiliate Union of Northern Workers since the strike at the northern mine began April 7. BHP is seeking an injunction against the union and unspecified damages. It also claims the mine's customers and suppliers are being illegally harassed.

"The defendants are engaging in illegal acts with the intention of achieving a collective agreement on terms favourable or preferential to PSAC and UNW than could be achieved without the illegal acts," the statement of claim says.

A Friday court hearing on the injunction was adjourned to give the union more time to prepare. No new date was set.

PSAC represents about 385 of the mine's almost 1,000 employees and contract workers.

BHP's allegations include a worker being told he would be beaten up and his windshield smashed if he worked during the strike and an employee's 10-year-old son being coerced into pleading with his father to stay away from the job.

The company also claims the union picketed Ekati contractor Braden Burry Expediting in Yellowknife and prevented some vehicles from entering an airstrip.

As well, the statement of claim alleges union representatives occupied the Edmonton offices of Tundra Site Services on April 12, and refused to leave unless the company promised not to perform work normally done by BHP employees.

Allegations made in a statement of claim have not been proven in court. BHP said the mine is continuing full production without the company bringing in replacement workers.

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