Job Quality or Equality? Labour Union Engagement with Inuit Workers in Northern Mines.

Friday, 20 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Matthew O'REILLY, United Steelworkers, Canada
Proponents of resource development often cite wage employment as a key benefit that Indigenous communities receive from resource development. This is based on the assumption that there is a sufficient supply of desirable employment and that job quality is high. Accordingly, provisions in Impact Benefit Agreements often focus on hiring and promotion and neglect job quality even when the latter arguably affects the desirability of mining employment. At the same time, labour unions, pivotal to improving work conditions, wages and benefits in mining, have been losing ground as global firms expand their use of subcontractors and shift to smaller, more skilled and mobile workforces. In this paper we investigate the complexity of the shifting industrial relations in Northern Canada, drawing on case studies of two mines with Impact Benefit Agreements in Nunavik: Raglan mine owned by Glencore, and Nunavik Nickel mine owned by Canadian Royalties. Drawing on document analysis and interviews with representatives from mining companies, unions and Inuit governments and organizations, this paper highlights how the complex relations among unions, companies and Inuit governments, as mediated by Impact Benefit Agreements, influence employment and job quality for Inuit workers. We propose that greater alliances between unions and Inuit governments are critical to Indigenous employment initiatives.