Scott Doherty is western director of the union Unifor, which represents some workers at PotashCorp.
For communities relying on the resource sector, there can be few mornings more devastating than the one earlier this month when workers at the Lanigan potash mine arrived at work, only to be told they were now unemployed and to go right back home. They had been laid off.
What a hard drive home that was for many back on the highway, heading out across central Saskatchewan, back to one of the many rural communities that rely on potash for their livelihood. They had plenty of time to let the news sink in … only to have to repeat it to their families when they got home.
For some 212 workers at the PotashCorp mine in Lanigan, that was how the morning of Dec. 3 played out when the company announced it would lay off 440 workers across the province and more elsewhere.
Workers at the mine were expecting something to come as potash prices dropped. Years of strong prices had come to an end with the Russians pulling out of an international potash marketing group. In a global economy, a decision made in Moscow can easily reach into the living room of a family in Saskatchewan and pull the rug out from under them. That is not a surprise to anyone anymore, which is why the workers were expecting something to pop.
But what they didn’t expect was so many permanent layoffs to be handed down. Not three weeks before Christmas. Not with the company still making good money. And not with the provincial government having handed over so much money to PotashCorp in recent years.
Workers in resource industries soon learn about the unpredictability of the market and what that can do to their prospects for stable employment. Many in Lanigan had been through layoffs at the mine before and that experience had taught them to expect some bad news before the end of the year.
However, that didn’t make it any easier, especially when the cuts went deeper than anticipated. And especially when there is a better way. Four years – to the day – before these layoffs were announced, the Saskatchewan Party government of Brad Wall announced tax breaks for PotashCorp that it said would boost employment in the province. The cost, the government said, was to be “offset by the additional revenue generated through job creation.”
For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.leaderpost.com/business/Profitable+PotashCorp+underpays+province/9294495/story.html