After the layoff
CAW Local 2304 tracks members

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 04/00) - After months of uncertainty and chaos, Marc Danis said many ex-Giant mine workers are still in limbo.

Canadian Autoworkers Local 2304 president said 40 workers have been recalled by Miramar Mining Corp., and are working at the Giant mine site.

The rest of the 149 members, who were formerly employed at Giant mine, he said, are scattered all over.

"If you count both staff and hourly, I suspect we have about 125 (including families) who have left town, and that exodus is being felt all over," said Danis.

"And I think when the new GNWT budget is handed down, we'll really find out what the impact will be."

The CAW executive compiled a breakdown of where their Giant members are. Danis said to the best of their knowledge 38 workers have secured other employment, 43 are still collecting Employment Insurance, 25 are currently in training programs and the union office has lost contact with 33 members.

When Danis looks back over the process from Giant bankruptcy to today, he shakes his head.

"I really thought there was a lot more political will by the federal government and especially our MP Ethel Blondin-Andrew to help us," said Danis.

"The federal government left us high and dry. They promised us jobs on (mine) reclamation and so far they've produced one part-time job for our members. And the likelihood of them producing more jobs for our guys in the future gets slimmer every day."

At the Local 2304 union hall, men peck away on the computers and search the job boards. Lloyd Pittman was an employee at Giant mine for 19 years. He expected to be one of the lucky ones recalled by Miramar.

"I was expecting that recall and it wasn't there," said Pittman.

"I'm going to have to move out of town if I can't find work and that's something my family and I never wanted to do."

Yellowknife mayor Dave Lovell didn't argue with Danis' claim that upwards of 125 people have left town due to the Giant mine bankruptcy.

"More people have left town than I expected," said Lovell.

He said as the Giant process unfolded, Miramar did well with their negotiations and so did the city, but at the cost of the workers.

"I think the workers really ended up with the short end of the stick. They lost part of their pensions and they're out of work. I think that's really sad in this day and age," said Lovell.

"We can't put ore in the ground and we can't drive gold prices up, but at the very least a government should provide some form of pension protection."

In terms of the effect the number of workers leaving will have on the city, Lovell said it will be more a loss in character than in property taxes.

"Assuming the Diavik diamond mine gets the go ahead, the city will continue to replace jobs faster than we're losing them," said Lovell.

"But it's not the same individuals getting the jobs. We're losing a lot of long-term residents and that hurts a city. It's the same buildings and the same land but the people are changing."