6. Workers' Rights at the Mary River Mine – Summary

Key Message

Workers’ rights are one of the areas that the Baffinland company has the greatest amount of control over its impacts. It is also an area where the Inuit have expressed hope and expectations for positive benefits in terms of job opportunities—which can be understood in terms of the right to work and other labour rights. One of the biggest challenges for Baffinland will be non-discrimination in the workplace, especially in terms of hiring, promoting and retaining Inuit and female employees at the Mary River mine.

In Brief

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Workers’ rights are one of the areas that the Baffinland company has the greatest amount of control over its impacts. It is also an area where the Inuit have expressed hope and expectations for positive benefits in terms of job opportunities—which can be understood in terms of the right to work and other labour rights.

Workers’ rights are one of the areas that the Baffinland company has the greatest amount of control over its impacts. It is also an area where the Inuit have expressed hope and expectations for positive benefits in terms of job opportunities—which can be understood in terms of the right to work and other labour rights. One of the biggest challenges for Baffinland will be non-discrimination in the workplace, especially in terms of hiring, promoting and retaining Inuit and female employees at the Mary River mine.

Labour rights are a central issue in all human rights impact assessments. This is because labour rights are protected by international law (the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, as well as by the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights), and because companies have control over how their workers are treated. Companies should also make sure that their suppliers and contractors respect their workers.

The key issues that need to be monitored from a human rights perspective include:

• Non-discrimination in employment. This means that Inuit workers and female workers should have equal chances to get hired and promoted at the mine. They should also be protected against harassment at work. This has sometimes been a challenge at other mines in Canada. Baffinland’s training activities such as the Work Ready Program are positive steps to give Inuit opportunities for jobs. Training and apprenticeships for Inuit promote the right to work and the right to education. The government and the DIOs should collaborate to provide strong training programmes to allow Inuit to take advantage of the opportunities at the Mary River mine and for future mining projects in Nunavut.

• Safe and healthy working conditions. Modern mines in Canada have good safety records and Baffinland says that safety is its number one priority. However, there are many health and safety risks related to the different aspects of the Mary River mine, so on-going training, monitoring and inspection will be very important. Particular care and counseling should be provided to support mental health at the mine in relation to potential issues related to the fly-in/fly-out working arrangements and potential substance abuse problems.

• Just and favourable working conditions. Modern mines in Canada provide excellent wages and benefits and Baffinland is expected to be an employer of choice in Nunavut. By providing just and favourable working conditions for its employees, Baffinland also provides opportunities for families and communities to enhance other human rights such as food, health and education. As many Inuit are not accustomed to working in the formal economy, they may need support to ensure that generous wages and benefits turn into positive human rights outcomes. Government, DIOs and local communities all have a role to play.

• Freedom of association and collective bargaining. It is important that workers can discuss workplace issues and concerns with management. Some mines in Canada have unions and others do not. What is important is that Baffinland allows workers to meet together and to raise individual and collective issues such as health, safety, wages and benefits.

• Preventing forced labour and child labour. It is extremely unlikely that there will be forced labour or child labour issues at the Mary River mine. However, given the school drop-out rates in some Inuit communities, attention should be paid to child labour issues for local businesses that provide services to the mine.

Baffinland has presented a detailed Human Resources policy in the Final Environmental Impact Statement that addresses many of these workers’ rights issues. Implementing and monitoring this policy should be a priority as it presents many opportunities for positive impacts on human rights.
 

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