MAC: Mines and Communities

Statement from the Union of Northern Workers

Published by MAC on 2006-05-19

Statement from the Union of Northern Workers

19th May 2006

BHP Billiton must respect its workers

Yellowknife: By using scabs at its Ekati diamond mine and by refusing to bargain in good faith with its 400 unionized workers, BHP Billiton is showing its contempt for Canadian workers.

According to the National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) John Gordon, "if BHP Billiton wants to stay in Canada and continue to do business, it has to respect Canadian workers."

Gordon is in Yellowknife today to show his support to the 400 PSAC members at the Ekati diamond mine who have been on strike since April 7. The main issues in dispute are job security, seniority, holiday leave and wages. Despite having made 7.5 billion dollars in profit last year, BHP Billiton refuses to recognize the years of service of its employees and job security, is offering only a 1% wage increase. Furthermore, the company thinks that two weeks of holiday per year for such hard work is enough.

According to Gordon, "BHP loves to promote the fact that their diamonds are not tainted by blood as are diamonds produced in war-torn African countries like Sierra Leone, Angola and the Congo. But right now, BHP production from the Ekati mine is tainted by corporate greed and unfair corporate behaviour," added the PSAC President.

Gordon also vowed to work with the Canadian labour movement for the adoption of federal anti-scab legislation. "There are currently two private members' bills proposing federal anti-scab legislation. The PSAC will work relentlessly to have legislation adopted. We will continue to lobby MPs and will tell them that working men and women in this country want a fair level-playing field when they are in a dispute with their employer. We want this basic right entrenched in law and adopted during this Parliament."

The 400 workers of the Ekati Diamond Mine became members of PSAC in July 2004. The Ekati mine is located 300 km northeast of Yellowknife and is owned by BHP Billiton, a multinational corporation based in Australia. PSAC members work as truck drivers, welders, process plant workers, crane operators, electricians and other occupations in the mine.

For information:

Dave Thompson, PSAC-North 1-867-445-3343
Larry Welsh, PSAC-North 1-867-445-7441
Pierre Lebel, PSAC Communications 1-613 293-4663

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