April 10, 2006
Ekati Diamond Mine Workers Strike
After the breakdown of talks between BHP Billiton, owner of the Ekati diamond mine in Canada's Northwest Territories, and the union representing the mine's workers last week, 400 workers set up a picket line and went on strike Friday morning.
The workers, who are members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada union, represent more than half of Ekati's employees. The striking workers, many of whom are aboriginal, are disputing a contract proposed by BHP Billiton that they claim does not address pay inequities and other equality issues.
BHP Billiton has promised to keep the mine running using management and scabs who cross the picket line.
Also on Friday, the union announced that a group of workers filed an application with the Canada Industrial Relations Board to decertify the union. However, the union said publicly that it doubts the legitimacy of the signatures on the application, suggesting the mine's owner might be involved.
Ekati is located 300 kilometers from Yellowknife, a region with a history of violent mining labor disputes. In 1992, an underground bomb during a mine strike there resulted in the deaths of nine workers who crossed the picket line, according to the CBC. Ekati produces 6% of the world's diamonds.