Mining Layoffs Affecting Smaller Sudbury Companies – by Bill Bradley

Date Published – Mar. 9, 2009

Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of permission to post Bill Bradley’s article.

The mining layoffs at Vale Inco and Xstrata are making the headlines.

But the pain is also being felt by employees in smaller companies, said one laid off worker at Mansour Mining Inc.

Jeff Marsolais, a laid off worker at Mansour Mining, said he knew of up to 70 fellow employees that have been laid off.

“Vale Inco and Xstrata layoffs get all the headlines. But the smaller companies are cutting jobs too. We are getting cut. We have families and bills to pay too,” said Marsolais.

Laurentian University economist David Robinson said smaller companies are always at risk.

“There is no guarantee for anyone these days. But there are wonderful companies here that have survived the up and down cycles in the past. We certainly are on a roller coaster now though,” said Robinson.

Dick DeStefano, executive director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association, said he sent out a survey two weeks ago to his members.

While most are located in Greater Sudbury, there are some in North Bay and as far away as Timmins.

“At that time our information from our 80 corporate members indicated a total of 850 layoffs occurring, 800 in this city. But that was two weeks ago. Now from what I hear the figure may be closer to 1400 in the overall membership with 1,200 layoffs in the city.”

The actual number can be difficult to tally up.

“Naturally these companies do not want to divulge they are struggling. Even some major engineering firms are eying significant layoffs. Everyone wants to give the impression they are ready and able to take on any new work, no problem,” said DeStefano.

But the important number is the actual number of full time employees laid off, not contractors who are moved off job sites.

“That number, full time employees, is significant. Work by contractors always has a beginning and an end. They may move to another job site,” he said.

If the economy continues to falter, DeStefano predicts the total could reach 2,000 layoffs in Greater Sudbury in smaller companies by the end of April if there is not enough work for them to do.

“Vale Inco will have a shutdown in May. Will there be work for these companies? I know equipment in the mill needs work.” DeStefano said he is hearing post-secondary students trying to get placements at are finding it tough.
Northern Life has contacted College Boreal and Cambrian College about the issue, but officials were not immediately available for comment.

In January, Vale Inco had to cancel placements for dozens of Cambrian College students, citing financial reasons.

For Dick DeStefano the malaise in the mining industry has become so serious, it is becoming a real threat.

“These mining layoffs are hitting young people hard. This is now a generational issue. What if these students cannot get placements? Will they abandon the mining sector as being too risky? If so, that is a serious issue.”