UMWA’s Dukart on Donkin: ‘It Seems Everyone Is Scared to Talk’

Jody Dukart is the Auditor/Teller for Canada of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), a position he took up in October 2017, following the retirement of Cape Breton’s Bobby Burchell.

Although the Donkin coal mine re-opened by Kameron Coal Management is famously non-union (it’s owned by the Cline Group which is also famously non-union), Burchell has been speaking to the media about the recent “restructuring” at Donkin which saw 49 miners lose their jobs.

 

UMWA President Cecil C. Roberts swears in Jody Dukart as the union's auditor/teller for Canada. October 2017. (Photo via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/UMWAunion/)

UMWA President Cecil C. Roberts swears in Jody Dukart as the union’s auditor/teller for Canada. October 2017. (Photo via Facebook)

 

I wondered what Burchell’s successor made of the situation so I emailed Dukart, having first peeked at his LinkedIn profile which shows he’s no stranger to coal company “restructurings,” having worked for years at the Estevan Mine in Saskatchewan which let 30 miners go in 2014 (although mine owner Sherritt International Corp preferred the term “head-count reduction”). The “reduction” came shortly after the company announced plans to sell all its coal assets to Denver-based Westmoreland Coal.

It’s safe to say Dukart also knows a thing or two about the corners companies will cut when it comes to mine safety, given that Westmoreland Coal (which also operates as Prairie Mines) pled guilty in July of this year to “to failing to ensure a safe environment for its workers” after “a worker fell approximately six meters out of a dragline excavator” at the Estevan mine in 2015. The mine owner was fined and was fined $85,714, with a surcharge of $34,285.

I asked Dukart his response to the firings at Donkin and he replied by email:

First of all…I feel the Cline Group has one goal and that is to mine the coal as cheap as they can…putting the health and safety of its workforce on the sidelines.

The group has proved that in the last week by letting its 49 experienced miners go. Now what they have is no experience and a cheaper workforce. Bottom line more money in the pockets for Chris Cline and his investors.

Dukart echoed Burchell’s warnings about the dangers of letting experienced miners go:

The mentality in any coal mine is, there are older, experienced coal miners and then there are the younger generation, inexperienced miners. The experienced miners always have a voice and always watch the younger generation’s back when it comes to hazards. I feel the management team took the voice away from the inexperienced guys leaving them to defend for themselves, which I hope [doesn’t] have a bad outcome.

Finally, I asked about efforts to unionize Donkin. Burchell, in a speech during Miners’ Memorial Day in Glace Bay this June, said the UMWA had served notice it would be organizing a union drive at Donkin. Dukart replied:

The UMWA has a strong history in Cape Breton and our goal is to keep that history alive. We have been in the area for our retirees and as long as the coal keeps being mined and shipped we are here to stay.

We have had a lot of retired UMWA members approach us and say they are here to help in any way to unionize Donkin. The reason being is these are the guys that worked in the mines before and they know how important it is to have a union in place just to look after the health and safety of these men and women.

We have a office in Glace Bay and we do have reps available for these people to talk to but it seems everyone is scared to talk. That tells me that the Cline Group must have incentives for its employees to not talk to a union. Nobody from the Cline group will talk to us at this point.

 

 

 

 

 

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