Editorial: Two more weeks to two years on

Trent Ernst, Editor

Walter Energy has 15 days to re-open Wolverine before all those employees who have been laid off will officially be unemployed.

Back in June of last year, it came to light that Walter was considering restarting the mine in an effort to save itself about $11.6-million in severance.

At the time, the BC Labour Relations Board ruled that Walter was in breach of section 54 of the Labour Relations Code.

The Board ordered Wolverine LP to pay $771,378.70 into trust by way of remedy. And while that amount may take care of the grievances the union had leveled at the company, it is a pittance in the face of the $11.6-million the company will have to pay out in two weeks.

Or rather, would have to, if not for the fact that they are currently under court ordered creditor protection, and the chance of the mine restarting is slim to none.

While Walter has a few million stashed under its bed in case of a rainy day, it has been pouring buckets on the company. It has been, as they say in the Faroe islands, raining pilot whales upon the American mining company.

Before it idled Wolverine, the mine had been operating in the red for about nine months.

The company can be profitable at about US$140 per tonne. But with metallurgical coal prices toying with half that price (it hit US$81 per tonne last quarter), it’s not looking good for people waiting around for the mine to restart.

Of course, there’s not a lot of people who are doing that. Most former employees have moved on. Some have abandoned their houses while others are choosing to live here while finding gainful employment elsewhere.

A lot of people are pinning their hopes to Site C. Peace River Hydro Partners were in town a month or so back for a job fair, and people are starting to get a little ansy, as the promised 1500 jobs have yet to materialize.

However, hiring should start soon. And here’s hoping that a lot of Tumbler Ridge folks are able to find gainful employment. But with well over 3000 people dropping off their resumes at the four job fairs held across Northeaster BC, there’s a 50/50 chance of getting hired.

And that’s over the life of the contract. Peace River Hydro partners is only planning on hiring about 600 people this year, which drops the chance of anyone getting a job to one in five.

Of course, that’s just based purely on the numbers. Skill will play into it as well, as will a lot of other variables.

One of the biggest variables will be persistence.

Right now, Peace River Hydro partners has collected about 3500 resumes for all manner of jobs. But the thing is, they don’t know what those jobs are yet.

They know they’re going to need heavy equipment operators, but until they get the equipment on-site, they don’t know how many operators they’re going to need.

In the next few months, they’re going to be figuring out these specifics, and combing through that great big pile of resumes.

But here’s the secret that you Tumbler Ridge people need to know: they will also be posting the jobs.

Once they do that, the wily unemployed former miner living in Tumbler Ridge will put in their resume again, applying for that job specifically.

Because if you were an HR person, would you rather look at the two or three resumes specifically tailored for a specific job, or comb through thousands of applicants, trying to find the one whose skills matched the position?

So don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t think just because you’ve got your resume in, you’ll be called. Keep your eyes on www.sitecproject.com for new job postings.

Because, while there is an outside chance that Walter will re-open in the next two weeks, I wouldn’t go holding my breath that will happen.