Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 10, 2017 - 8:00 am

Inuit org hopes to boost Inuit job numbers at Mary River

QIA aims for 25 per cent Inuit employment by 2020 at North Baffin iron mine

The Qikiqtani Inuit Association's director of major projects, Stephen Williamson Bathory, presents an update on the Mary River IIBA during an annual general meeting Oct. 5. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)
The Qikiqtani Inuit Association's director of major projects, Stephen Williamson Bathory, presents an update on the Mary River IIBA during an annual general meeting Oct. 5. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Over the next three years, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association aims to double the proportion of Inuit employed at the Mary River iron mine, located about 150 kilometres southwest of Pond Inlet and operated by Baffinland Iron Mines Corp, a QIA official said Oct. 5.

As of this this year, only 12.9 per cent of employees at the Mary River mine are Inuit. That percentage is roughly half of the 25 per cent Inuit employment target that Baffinland and the QIA agreed they would reach by 2016 and 2017 in their 2013 Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement.

But the Inuit organization now plans to reach the 25 per cent benchmark by 2020—with the cooperation of Baffinland—though a new strategic plan and more vigorous training efforts.

“It’s not just, ‘Have we hit the number?’ but, ‘How do we hit the number?’” Stephen Williamson Bathory, the director of the QIA’s department of major projects, said during an update on the Mary River IIBA at the QIA’s annual general meeting, Oct. 5. 

The update included a report that came out of an annual review forum held in Arctic Bay this past spring.

The employment gap represents about $9 million in lost wages for Inuit, the QIA said.

But now that the QIA and Baffinland have nearly finished a joint human resources strategy, issues addressed at the forum—such as hiring, career advancement, job retention and training—can be more easily measured, Williamson Bathory said.

“We now have the tools where we can measure Baffinland’s action… We can measure compliance of the IIBA,” Williamson Bathory said.

He also said that employment goals under the IIBA are past the conceptual stage.

“We have to have actions. We have to take specific steps,” he said. 

Through upcoming community visits, the QIA plans to develop a database of people interested in jobs at Mary River, with their skills.

A similar survey, done in 2013 when the IIBA was negotiated, identified 1,200 Inuit who were interested in jobs at the mine. But the training and even pre-training steps needed to get all those people into jobs didn’t work out.

“We’ve heard that people have sent out resumes and never heard back,” he said. 

To fix this communications problem, new computers are being placed in some offices used by community liaison officers, or CLOs, so that community members can use them to apply for jobs.

“We’re seeing the importance of having to communicate more often with communities,” IIBA manager Rebecca Mearns said during the update. 

While Iqaluit and the five communities closest to the mine—Hall Beach, Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Clyde River—are given priority for hiring, QIA board member Levi Barnabas said Inuit from all areas must be recruited if there is any hope of meeting or exceeding the 25 per cent target.

The QIA will also conduct interviews with current Inuit staff at Baffinland, to ensure Inuit are being respected on the job, that workplace conditions are appropriate and that language is not a barrier. 

“Language should not keep anybody from working there,” Barnabas said.

One rule within the IIBA is that vacant positions must be filled with an Inuit person 100 per cent of the time if the previous employee who held the job was Inuit, or 50 per cent of the time if they were non-Inuit.

“The bubble we are trying to break through is getting Inuit in skilled positions,” Williamson Bathory said. 

Baffinland is also currently pushing to have Inuit employees who are qualified for multiple roles, “so they can move within the project,” he said. 

The company hopes to have 20 to 30 such employees trained for multiple roles at the mine site.

As for the overall progress of the IIBA implementation, “it’s nowhere near where we want to be, and the company agrees,” Williamson Bathory said.

An arbitration panel, in July, ordered Baffinland to pay QIA $7.2 million in back royalties.

“Now that arbitration has passed we also have a Baffinland commitment to work in this area,” Williamson Bathory said.

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(11) Comments:

#1. Posted by wait for it..... on October 10, 2017

‘we’ll hit the mark in 2016, maybe we’ll hit the mark in 2020’....what is the next news article will be in 2020?

Unless capable people start running the board and the organization, then we’ll see real results.

#2. Posted by Spartan on October 10, 2017

I wish QIA and Baffinland the best in their efforts.  More Inuit employed in these relatively well paid jobs can only be a good thing. 

Working on a mine site in even an unskilled job requires good reading skills, some basic numeracy, and the ability to rub along with a diverse set of co-workers in an intense working environment.

As training and job-preparedness increase, we can expect to see improvement in Inuit employment numbers, but it will be an incremental process.

#3. Posted by Matt on October 10, 2017

The mining company, like most for-profit companies, want the resource with the least amount of headache. If QIA wants more Inuit hired then sadly it will be on them to make to make it happen because the mininy co. certainly isn’t going to drive it.

#4. Posted by Concerned on October 10, 2017

Inuit are bullying each other at Mary River and Milne Inlet, they lie to their supervisors and get the other worker fired, what is QIA going to do about that?

#5. Posted by Unemployed and Local on October 10, 2017

QIA - Inuujunga and need a job….get me in, get me in!

#6. Posted by eskimo joe on October 10, 2017

qia, are you kidding asking for this late in the game? bimc has their foot as the doorjam and late in this development, you’re asking now? with royalties and commitment to their country and shareholders….a day late and a mile short i say. as the saying goes; that’s the way the cookie crumble and mr qia; you just missed you dog team ride.

#7. Posted by Pete on October 10, 2017

I don’t know how QIA can hold your hand and carry you through work if you can’t do it.

It seems like there is a lot of opportunity for Inuit but you have to be willing to get educated and trained to get these jobs, just for being Inuk you don’t get a job automatically. Those days are long gone, you need education and training today.
You can’t expect a mining company to give you a job just for being an Inuk, doesn’t work that way.

With more Inuit getting educated and trained in the fields required to fill these jobs, that’s when we will see real results.

#8. Posted by JAnice T on October 10, 2017

I agree for #7 but what you forgot is that our inuit family need to goto work and not show up drunk and not give up.  Can’t always blame our the Southerners

#9. Posted by Amanda on October 11, 2017

It’s lip service.

To increase Inuit employment at Baffinland Iron Mines would displace the non-Inuit employees. If those employees are in management/supervisor positions, wouldn’t they have their own best interests in mind?
I just failed my probationary period at BIM/QIA. I went in with the best of intentions and still managed to fail. I became confrontational when I felt a supervisor was constantly picking on me. I had asked for the last half hour off of a shift, as I was feeling unwell, they said no. I walked off anyway as I knew housekeeping priorities were done, and after puking I slept for 12 hours straight. I walked off because I have witnessed this person being biased (allowing other employees to leave early for cigarettes breaks). This person, would make passive aggressive remarks about my hobbies and eating habits. This person would come up and complain about my coworkers to me.
Yeah, so I was fired. I wasn’t placed at another camp, or with another supervisor. fired.

#10. Posted by Old man on October 11, 2017

Sounds like you really didn’t want to work there anyways

#11. Posted by consistancy on October 13, 2017

With Baffinland set to be in operation for the next 100 years maybe there should be a new community built so that families can live closer to the mine and dont have to do the 2 on 2 off were they are away from family for 2 weeks. Put in a school, this will also provide the mine with future employees as kids will grow up with the mine and it will be what they will do.

or at least have some school field trips to the camp to let the new work force see what it is like and encourage training.

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