Executives at the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) are not interested in speaking publicly on an estimated 150 worker suspensions issued at the Labrador West mine over the holidays.
“We do not comment publicly on internal processes such as discipline,” said Heather Bruce-Veitch, director of communications and external relations with IOC, in an emailed response to questions.
A company memo, as The Telegram has reported, warned workers before the holidays of the potential for three-day suspensions, if they failed to show up for their shifts.
IOC needed all hands on deck, it stated, in order to maintain productivity.
The mining operation has been struggling under current iron ore prices.
A mine expansion, the Wabush 3 pit, cleared environmental assessment in September 2015, only to be placed on hold by the company before year-end.
Written communications with workers have noted the challenging market conditions, stating the mine remains “at risk.”
As for the recent suspensions, the province’s Labour Relations Act protects an employers’ right to suspend workers. “Except as otherwise expressly provided,” it notes, “nothing in this Act affects the right of an employer to suspend, transfer, lay off or discharge an employee for proper and sufficient cause.”
Union president Ron Thomas, with United Steelworkers Local 5795, argues many of the suspensions were without cause, however and cannot be justified.
Grievances have been filed.