Strike at mine in Nunavik, Quebec enters fifth day

A file photo of the Raglan Mine. The site has 1,200 employees. Of those, 20 per cent are Inuit. (Glencore Canada)

A strike at a mine in Nunavik, Quebec has entered its fifth day after the union decided to exercise its strike mandate late Friday night.

United Steelworkers, the union representing the 630 striking workers at Raglan Mine, said it had no updates on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the mine said they remain eager to resolve the conflict.

“We’ve mentioned to the conciliator that we’re still ready to be at the table to resolve the differences together for a good, beneficial collective agreement for all,” Amélie Rouleau, director of public affairs and community engagement, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. 

Among the main issues for the union are the use of subcontractors along with vacations and wages.

“It has reached the point where there are often many more contractors at the mine site than unionized workers,” Eric Savard, president of Steelworkers Local 9449, said in a statement on the weekend. 

Mediator failed to break stalemate

Raglan is a fly-in, fly-out mine on the Ungava Peninsula located between the communities of Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq.

Living conditions there have also become a concern, Savard said.

“Living conditions at the mining camp have deteriorated over the year,” he said. “The employer systematically quibbles over the living and working conditions of employees who are away their families for long periods of time. It’s time for this company to show greater respect for the workers who are generating its profits of tens of millions of dollars each year.” 

The Raglan Mine is part of Glencore Group, a natural resource company.

The mine presented a global offer on May 5 that was rejected by the union on May 21.

A meeting in front of a mediator on May 27 failed to break the stalemate.

The union had voted on strike action the previous week with 97.5 per cent of their members voting in favour, the union said.

They decided to exercise their mandate at 10pm on Friday.

Pierre Barrette, Raglan Mine’s vice-president, expressed his disappointment in a statement on the weekend. 

“We believe the global offer presented to the union was fair and mutually beneficial for all parties,” he said. “The union’s actions are particularly disappointing considering the recent arrival of an independent mediator and the openness the company demonstrated to improve the initial offer.”

Mine put in ‘caretaking mode’

The mine suspended its activities on the weekend. Striking employees have left the mine and returned to their hometowns.

The site is now in ‘caretaking mode’ with a reduced number of employees to ensure the security and integrity of the infrastructure, Rouleau said.

Raglan Mine has 1,200 employees. Of those, 20 per cent are Inuit.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canadian government says it can’t approve emergency request from Arctic mine, CBC News

SwedenUN experts call on Sweden to halt mining project on Indigenous Sami land, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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