A second chance
Employment insurance, retraining next for former Giant workers

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 13/99) - When it was announced 250 employees were losing their jobs at Giant, there were 93 miners over 40 years of age, 67 over 50, and eight over 60 employed at the mine.

Since then, layoff notices have been delivered. Most of the workers responded the only way they could, which was to file into the Yellowknife Inn on Friday to apply for Employment Insurance (EI).

"I expected it but now that I'm actually filling out the forms, it's really hitting home," said Frank Banic, a 30-year veteran of mining in the North.

"When a guy gets old, it's hard to change careers. I'm 56 and I probably don't have much of a chance to get a job somewhere else, but we'll see how it goes."

Employment Insurance service representatives set up in the hotel conference room to serve the more than a hundred applicants they knew were coming.

For many of the workers, filling out the forms brought their worries about mortgages, car payments, family and uncertain futures to the forefront. Others were fortunate enough to have a spouse still working.

"My wife has a good job so when I filled out the form I thought of it as an opportunity," said 11-year mining veteran, Marcel Bouchard.

"This may be a chance for me to get the training I need to do something other than mining."

It is that spirit that Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) wants to support and strengthen. ECE representatives were set up beside the EI tables on Friday to promote retraining programs.

Regional superintendent Rose O'Donnell-King said after filling out their EI forms, more than 50 workers stopped to talk to their representatives.

"Our goal is to provide different opportunities and means for people to pursue their career goals and employment opportunities," she said.

"When people come to us we find they focus on the job they were doing and not the skills the job gave them. We may have to refocus these guys and get them to reassess the skills they have. Once they do that, they find out there are options out there."

ECE is also working with CAW Local 2304. The department has made a commitment to open a transition centre for former Giant workers at the CAW Local 2304 union hall.

Because of the interest shown by the former employees on Friday, O'Donnell-King said ECE will be scheduling another general information session in the next week or so.