Thursday, February 19, 2009

In the grand scheme of things...

...everything will be okay. The important things in life are not things.

I will continue to remind myself of this each and every day, even though some days it probably won't feel all that accurate.

The reality is that I have a great husband, together we have great kids, and we all have great family and friends.

On Monday February 9th just after 2:00am, Jordan learned that his employer, XStrata Nickel would be laying off 686 people at the Sudbury Operations. At 3am, Jordan learned he was one of the unlucky ones.

We are thankful that the union has fought for the workers and secured from XStrata a salary continuation program until June 3rd. We realize that we are lucky to be afforded this breathing room.

We are thankful, that although the field I work in is not faring all that well either, I remain employed. We are thankful that when Jordan's health benefits expire, we can just add ourselves to the plan at my job.

We remain positive, but cautious. It is obviously prudent to worry, because the reality is not only that Jordan is looking for work, but that 685 others are too.

Vale INCO, another major employer here has an "announcement" on Friday, February 20th. We can not be surprised if they have chosen to lay off as well.

Inevitably, many of the contractors and manufacturers who are connected to the mines will also experience layoffs.

All this is to say that I hope you and your loved ones do not have to experience this. We thank you for all your well wishes and prayers.

We choose to see this as an opportunity and to believe that this will grow us in ways we cant event imagine. Any growth required growing pains. Let's hope this pain is short term, and not chronic.

This recent editorial in The Sudbury Star, says it all.

Help wanted: real investment - Editorial

To put things in perspective, Greater Sudbury lost almost 700 jobs when Xstrata Nickel announced last week it was closing mines and reducing its workforce in response to lower nickel prices and weak demand.

Greater Sudbury has a population of about 157,000; the Greater Toronto Area has 5.5 million. If the GTA had been hit with a similar layoff as this city was, the job losses would have topped 21,000. Can you imagine what the reaction to that would have been?

In these days of 1,000 cuts here and 5,000 there, it's useful to measure job losses as they affect the communities in which they take place. Seven hundred (686 to be exact) may not seem like a lot in the big picture, but for Greater Sudbury, they sting, and that's not even talking about the spin-off effects.

Some economists say that for every job lost at a major employer like Xstrata Nickel, another 1.7 will be lost as supporting businesses, ranging from mining supply and services to local restaurants, adjust to the downturn. So, that's 700 plus 1,300, or about 2,000 jobs. In Greater Toronto Area terms, that would be about 60,000 jobs.

There was some relief, then, when Xstrata Nickel and Local 598 of Mine Mine/Canadian Autoworkers said Friday that 580 members facing layoff would be paid until June 3, or for another 16 weeks. (The other laid-off employees come from non-union ranks or among office, clerical and technical staff).

In addition, the company has agreed to re-offer early retirement packages to about 27 employees, to fill vacancies and to recall laid-off Mine Millers to Nickel Rim mine when it begins production.

Those 16 weeks will give the workers, their families and the community a bit of breathing space. It was generous of Xstrata Nickel to extend this multi-million dollar lifeline.

However, it doesn't change the fact that when Xstrata bought the former Falconbridge Ltd. in 2006, it promised the federal government it would not cut operating jobs for three years. Xstrata broke that promise, but the feds, through Industry Minister Tony Clement, said that's OK.

Clement said he let the company off the hook because he secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investments by Xstrata in Greater Sudbury, including Nickel Rim. Except Xstrata had already announced those investments.

The leaders of Mine Mill plan to take up the matter with Clement. The three-year, no-layoff agreement was supposed to expire July 26, so seven weeks are at stake.

Clement should account for the difference. He is the Industry minister, after all, and responsible for FedNor, the federal government's economic development arm for Northern Ontario.

He ought to come through with something substantial. How about Xstrata, the feds and the provincial government (are you listening, Rick Bartolucci?) making a significant investment in Greater Sudbury that will create stable, lasting jobs? Not the short-term (but needed) economic stimulus type of jobs, but ones that will be here in 30 or 40 years.

It should also be an investment controlled by the community, not Ottawa, Queen's Park or Xstrata. It could be in a new tourist attraction similar in impact to Science North, or in health care and on the same scale as the cancer centre, or in education and of the same scope as the medical school.

If Clement could do that, then he'd have something to crow about.

Thanks again, and we love you all.


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