Celebrating Mining Week in British Columbia

This May 11th, 2008, BC once again celebrates Mining Week. As the mining industry continues to boom, this week is an appropriate time to reflect on impact of the growing mining sector has had on Canada, BC, and more specifically on Tumbler Ridge.

Canada has seen a tremendous growth in the mining sector over the last six years. Fueled by the unprecedented world demand for commodities, the mining sector employs more people than any other private sector in Northern Canada. Currently, the mineral and mining sector impacts over 100,000 jobs in the province of BC ? that is 4.5% of BC?s total workforce. Mining is anticipated to grow 66% faster than other industry over the next 10 years.

Fewer communities in BC have been as affected by the booming mining industry and its challenges as Tumbler Ridge. With Western Canadian Coal opening the Wolverine Mine, and Peace River Coal operating another mine in the area, coal mining is once again driving the economy.

Both these mines outside of Tumbler Ridge are new mines, which bring new issues and new players on the scene. CLAC Local 68 ? the union representing these miners- has a small history in Tumbler Ridge, but our presence in mining provincially has grown substantially. Nationally, CLAC has over 47,000 members and nearly 2000 of these members work in the construction and operation of mineral and metal mines throughout British Columbia. We have grown to be the 2nd largest Union in mining in BC.

With this growth come challenges. Service Canada predicts that with no change, there will be a shortfall of over 92,000 workers for the mineral and mining sector over the next decade. This lack of skilled workers actually threatens to constrain growth in the mining sector. Looking to the future we hope to be able to help address this problem. The labour shortage has caused concerns as many new people are entering the industry, and the demand for training has become a pressing concern at both mines.

The BC CLAC Training centre is well positioned to help with the training needs, both now and well into the future. Currently, the Training Centre offers over 50 courses for members which include everything from core safety courses like First Aid, confined space, fall protection and WHMIS as well as more advanced training like crane operators, blueprint reading, Heavy Equipment training and trade-specific apprenticeships. Courses are delivered daily all over the province in classrooms, directly on the worksite and even online.

CLAC Local 68 has worked hard through our local representatives and stewards to address this growth and face these challenges head on. We have opened an office in Tumbler Ridge, and we look forward to opening a new office in Fort St John later this year. CLAC representatives, stewards, and members have worked hard create a strong and responsible workforce. Both mine sites have ratified (by a majority vote) two of the best mining collective agreements in BC; with wages, benefits, and schedules that exceed most other operating mines in BC. Furthermore, CLAC Local 68 members working for Ledcor voted CLAC as their union of choice in a Labour Relations Board vote in early 2006. We have, and continue to, provide extremely effective member advocacy in the pursuit of grievances, regular site visits and union management meetings.

Reviewing the progress that we have made over the last couple of years, as well as the commitment of the union members, stewards, and representatives, I am confident that together we can face new challenges. We have made tremendous progress. Our members? commitment to their union and a robust mining economy will help us face the challenges of tomorrow. A united, strong workforce can bring about important changes that will help our members along with all industry stakeholders achieve their goals. CLAC Local 68 salutes all its hard working members working in the mining sector, and especially our members living and working in Tumbler Ridge, BC