Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 17, 2017 - 10:00 am

New workplan developed to fix flagging Inuit job numbers at iron mine

Inuit employment rate at Baffinland's Mary River mine dwindles to 12 per cent

In a new 2017 work plan commits QIA and Baffinland to working together to increase Inuit employment at the Mary River mine in North Baffin. (FILE PHOTO)
In a new 2017 work plan commits QIA and Baffinland to working together to increase Inuit employment at the Mary River mine in North Baffin. (FILE PHOTO)

As the Inuit employment rate continues to fall at the Mary River iron mine, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and Baffinland Iron Mines Corp. say an annual work plan approved this week promises better resources for training and hiring local workers.

The plan, mentioned in a May 14 QIA media release, addresses employment goals that have never materialized since the partners signed their original Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement in 2013, which has since funnelled more than $40 million dollars into QIA coffers.

But as the money has rolled in, Inuit employment rates have declined steadily—falling far short of the 25 per cent minimum Inuit employment target promised in 2016.

Currently, that number sits at 12 per cent, down from 16.7 per cent reported in the first half of 2016 and 20.3 per cent reported in 2014.

The new IIBA work plan will complete proposed strategies and plans for Inuit labour, Inuit training and procurement, the QIA news release said.

The plan will also develop and complete workplace condition surveys, as well as reboot the Work Readiness Program for Inuit interested in working at the mine.

That’s an important step following the death of a Mary River employee who was killed on the job in 2015.

The QIA’s community director, Levi Barnabas, and Baffinland’s vice president of sustainable development, Todd Burlingame, are charged with overseeing the implementation of the 2017 work plan.

They will report directly to QIA President PJ Akeeagok and Baffinland’s chief executive director, Brian Penney.

The blame game between the two partners has ramped up in light of Baffinland’s Phase II Mary River proposal, which will significantly increase the mine’s operations even as the global demand for iron ore dwindles.

The QIA slammed Baffinland for not living up to its IIBA promises and withholding millions of dollars earmarked for Inuit training, during a three-year review presented at the association’s annual general meeting last October.

But Baffinland shot back shortly after, lambasting the association for not disclosing the report to them before making it public and speaking to media.

Burlingame—who will oversee the current 2017 IIBA work plan—told Nunatsiaq News at the time that the training money had always been available but the committee responsible for spending it never did so.

Barnabas, the QIA’s point-man for the work plan, told Nunatsiaq News in May that there are many reasons Inuit fail to stay working at the mine.

Those reasons include shift work, which places added stress on families with members working at the mine, seasonal quitting for spring hunting season and rotating contractors at the mine who lay off their Inuit workers when contracts expire.

An overly complex job application process is also hindering Inuit recruitment.

Barnabas said culture and language conflicts at the mine are not a major factor in Inuit employment since most Inuit workers have accepted English as the language of commerce at the mine.

“English is being used for safety reasons. There’s multicultural people there—there’s French, there’s Inuit, there’s Qallunaaqs. I think it’s not an issue anymore, people understand the need to speak English. I think people are understanding why,” Barnabas said at the time.
The new work plan was drafted prior to an annual project review of the mine between QIA and Baffinland officials held in Arctic Bay May 9 and May 10.

Community participants polled at the Arctic Bay meetings will have their concerns over the mine addressed in a joint QIA and Baffinland response that will include strategies and recommendations for each issue.

Those responses are scheduled to be released publicly, within 90-days of the meeting.

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(6) Comments:

#1. Posted by optimist on May 17, 2017

the RIO’s the company need to work closer with the communities on getting more inuit employment, its not that hard.  Inuit should be ready to work out there, but it as well has to be a work environment that is not hostile to inuit.

#2. Posted by The thing is on May 17, 2017

You can bend over backwards and tie yourself in knots forever to give some people a job, yet they still treat is as something worthless.

#3. Posted by Pablo on May 18, 2017

It doesn’t have to be Inuit from that area, those guys don’t want to work, Inuit from other part of the region and Nunavut can go there and work!

I’m working there and I’m not from that region, more of us can work there.
Open it for other regions so more Inuit can work there.

#4. Posted by MINER on May 18, 2017

Its , very simple , do you want to work or collect welfare and live in poverty

#5. Posted by all will be OK on May 18, 2017

#2 that is what you have been taught.  A black or white view of giving.  Give an infant expensive toys, with all expectations the toys are the best to give for play.  A disappointment to you remains when the toys are of the least interest to the infant.

Wrap your mind around the view that giving, expecting, and receiving are not equal to everyone.  Change your thinking to suit the people involved.  Or watch over 50 years from now and see how your own culture will be evolved by global backward bends with knots that your children and grandchildren are given to live by.

I agree with Barnabas about English on the job when that language is used for safety reasons.  What about a sign language included along with English to communicate when at times?  Underwater divers use hand signals; prisoners use hand signals; sports use hand signals; truckers use hand signals; auction houses use hand signals.

#6. Posted by Nala on May 18, 2017

How about some training to motivate people to keep on coming back?

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