The mines shut down today as Devco workers walked off the job in protest federal plans to abandon the Cape Breton mines, closing one and privatizing another.
CUPE is one of four unions at Devco, representing 150 supervisors at the Phalen and Prince mines.
Thursday’s announcement by Natural Resources Minister Ralph Goodale is seen as a betrayal of the miners and their families, only three months after the federal government had approved a five-year plan for the mines. This plan would have assured the profitable operation of the mines for at least the next five years, during which time economic alternatives could be pursued.
“The minister dropped into Sydney, threw a piece of paper on the table and took our rights away,” said Angus MacEachern, president of CUPE 2046. “In effect, what he said was T0068is is what we’re giving you and if you don’t like it, too bad.’”
CUPE is protesting the government’s action for several reasons. The closure of one mine and the privatization of the other will have a devastating impact on Cape Breton, leaving families without incomes or options. More than half the miners will lose their jobs and some with as many as 30 years will receive severance but no pensions, because they’re not yet 50 years old.
There are also concerns about safety at the Prince mine once privatized. The mine now operates under federal health and safety regulations but a private mine would fall within provincial jurisdiction. Given the sorry history of Westray and other mining operations in Nova Scotia, this raises major concerns for the miners and their families.
As well, provincial jurisdiction means that the supervisors 004300550050E members 0077006f0075ld lose their right to be represented by a union.
CUPE’s contract provides for a joint workplace planning committee to examine layoffs and staff reductions but management has said there will be no joint discussions.
CUPE is examining its legal options while working with other unions and community allies to mount an effective opposition. Anger is building as people realize the impact on families and communities and the situation remains volatile.
All CUPE locals are encouraged to send messages of protest to Prime Minister Jean Chretien at (613) 992-4211 (phone) or (613) 941-6900 (fax) or firstname.lastname@example.org and Minister Goodale at (613) 996-2007 (phone), (613) 996-4516 (fax) or email@example.com.
Messages of solidarity for the members of Local 2046 can be faxed to local president Angus MacEachern at (902) 862-6093.
mlg opeiu/siepb 491