From Opinion 250
Tumbler Ridge, B.C.- Nearly 700 jobs will disappear from the Chetwynd – Tumbler Ridge region as Walter Energy shuts down it’s Wolverine and Brazion coal mines.
“We certainly didn’t anticipate this, this morning” says Frank Everitt, the president of United Steelworkers local 1-424, which represents about 400 workers at the Wolverine mine. Everitt says the union was invited to a meeting with the company this morning, “Our guys anticipated there might have been some slowdown, maybe the loss of one shift, but nothing to this extent that’s for sure.”
“This has come as a total shock” says Everitt.
It’s all because of the drop in the price of coal.
For the workers at Wolverine, the cut is immediate “The day shift didn’t operate, they sent them home” says Everitt, “and the night shift has been told they’ll be paid for the shift, but it is immediate.”
In a release from the Alabama based Walter Energy which operates the mine, comes word on the fate of “Brazion (which includes the operations of Brule and Willow Creek and is located near the district municipality of Chetwynd) will continue to operate the Brule mine but expects to idle the mine by July 2014. The company will continue to operate its preparation plants at these mines to complete processing of coal that already has been mined and is in inventory.”
The shut down impacts approximately 415 employees at the Wolverine mine, approximately 280 employees at Brazion, and other administrative support staff. A limited number of employees will remain at each site to operate the preparation plants and, once coal processing is complete, to perform ongoing equipment maintenance and provide ongoing security for the sites during the idle period.
There is no indication of how long the “idle period” might be.
“These layoffs are particularly unfortunate because our employees have worked very hard to keep these mines competitive in the face of daunting market conditions,” said Walter J. Scheller III, Chief Executive Officer. “Equally important, they’ve worked safely.” Scheller noted that the Brule mine completed 2013 without a reportable safety incident.
The company expects the severance packages to cost about $7 million in the second quarter of 2014 in connection with the idling of the mines.