PotashCorp job cuts a challenge for mine workers
Since high school, Daren Nakoneshny had a plan. The Lanigan native wanted to study a trade, then come home to work in Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.’s Lanigan mine. His family is there. The benefits and wages were unmatched.
“I achieved my long-term dream to work at PCS, and it was short-lived,” Nakoneshny, 25, said Friday. “It seemed like a pretty good idea at the time.” The electrician bought a house in Lanigan last year, where he lives with wife Caitlin and two young children.
On his Monday night shift, after nearly two years at the company, Nakoneshny knew something was up when he and his colleagues were ordered to a meeting at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. Rumours swirled.
Nakoneshny called Caitlin several times that night, asking her to look online for potential bad news.
At 6:30 a.m., he and 300 of his colleagues stood in a room at PCS Lanigan, watching a video broadcast of PotashCorp CEO Bill Doyle explaining why many of their jobs were about to evaporate.
At the front of the room were lists for each team, detailing who would stay, and who was out. Nakoneshny waited 20 minutes in line to find out which list his name was on.
“You went and stood in line like a cow to wait and get your head cut off,” recalled Rick Suchy, president of Unifor’s local 922, which represents 450 workers at the Lanigan mine.
Company officials say it was softer-than-expected demand for potash in the developing world that drove the decision to slash 18 per cent of its workforce. Around the world, 1,045 people lost their jobs, including 440 people in Saskatchewan.
Lanigan is arguably the hardest-hit town, where one of two potash mills will suspend production by the end of the year. About 220 people who worked at the mine 120 kilometres east of Saskatoon were laid off immediately this week, with a severance package containing eight weeks of pay.
It came as a shock to many, who are barraged with daily messages in which the provincial government brags about Saskatchewan’s robust economy, the numerous unfilled jobs, and the employers recruiting skilled workers from Europe.
“I did not expect this,” Suchy said, sitting at a broad table at the union office on Lanigan’s main street.
“I didn’t expect anything this big. Ever.” What now?
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