Giant axe to fall
Miramar Mines bid to purchase Giant successful, layoffs loom

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Sep 08/99) - Miramar Mines has successfully tendered a bid to receivers PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to buy Giant Mine.

The announcement came Tuesday.

Canadian Autoworkers plant chair Steve Petersen said PWC has presented them three options: suspend blasting immediately, cease operation immediately, or continue operations for 15 days to give the union or some other form of consortium the opportunity to forward a proposal to purchase the mine.

"Really, I think (the 15 day clause) is just a ruse to placate the union. They know full well our offer won't meet the criteria they want," Petersen said.

"I ask, is it now the style of the receivers to sell off employees before they sell off the property? That makes them the henchman for the corporate agenda. What they're doing is attempting to bust the union."

CAW area director Dale Paterson spoke at a press conference Tuesday at the CAW union hall. He said there is an agreement in principle in place with Miramar, subject to terms agreed to by DIAND and the GNWT.

"They made it clear that this purchaser is buying the property and equipment, but not the employees," he said.

"It's our feeling Miramar is trying to collapse the company so there is no liability."

The liability in question centres around things such as severance pay, vacation pay, seniority benefit agreements and pensions -- all the things that are attached to the long-term employees.

Even if Miramar fires all the employees with the intent to hire them back, Paterson said the operation of the mine is "based on an economic decision by Miramar."

He suggested the GNWT could come forward in the 15-day time period to make an offer.

"We're not saying it has to be an employee purchase. We think it's essential the GNWT take an active role and become a leader in the future of this mine," Paterson said.

Wayne Campbell has been a miner for 24 years, 11 of those as a scoop operator at Giant. He is also the NWT Federation of Labour vice-president. He said he is already looking for work.

""Workers can't afford to live here while the legal process works its way out -- it could take years," Campbell said.

"Offering the 15 days is a formality of closing. They're trying to go by the books as best they can, but everyone is going to be out of a job."

He said he's already made calls for work overseas and has had a tentative offer for employment.

"I've been making calls and I got a positive job response back from a company in Indonesia. If it works out, I'll move tomorrow," Campbell said.

"A man has to work and it's a sad day in Canada when Canadian workers have to go to another country to do it."

CAW president Marc Danis asked those filling the union hall at the press conference to contemplate 200 empty houses, the loss of transfer payments, and the impact of kids leaving the school system if the workers are sent packing.

He said he's left several messages to discuss the issue with MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew, but got no response.

"I have left a number of calls with (Blondin-Andrew's) office and I've heard nothing," Danis said.

"Personally, I'm beginning to believe she is following a Liberal mandate. There is a major crisis happening in her jurisdiction and she's nowhere to be found."

Paterson said from here workers were planning to meet with the GNWT to discuss further options.

Workers were also planning to take their concerns en masse to constituency meetings being held by MLAs in Yellowknife last night.