PUGWASH – Forty-two employees at the Pugwash salt mine will be out of jobs at the end of January.
Communcations, Energy and Paperworkers Union Local 823 president Randy Bonnyman has confirmed workers were notified of the job cuts during a recent meeting at the plant owned and operated by U.S. based Morton Salt.
“It’s not the news we wanted to hear so close to Christmas,” Bonnyman said of the decision. “Morale is pretty low right now. It’s hard news to get at this time of year.”
Company officials announced back in June that it was cutting its fine salt operations because of external pressures in Nova Scotia including transportation and energy costs as well as what’s becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace.
The volumes and product line from Pugwash will be moved throughout the network to improve efficiencies.
Bonnyman said union officials flew to Chicago recently to try to encourage the company to change its mind and discussions were held with the provincial government.
“Dave Coles from the CEP met with the province to see if there was any money available to help out, but the answer was no,” Bonnyman said.
The union president said he has also spoken several times to Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar, but was told there isn’t much government can do.
Bonnyman said these cuts will reduce the unionized workforce at the mine to 120 employees, although he said he expects some non-unionized workers will also be let go.
The union leader said another meeting is planned for Friday with the company to discuss how the layoff will take place. He expects those with seniority will be able to bump those with less experience.
Underground mining operations, as well as rock-salt production, will continue.
Fine salt is used to make table salt and other products.
Area municipal councillor Allison Gillis said the news is disappointing.
“It’s going to be a big blow to Pugwash,” he said. “Not everyone affected lives in Pugwash, but they come to and from Pugwash every day and no doubt spend some of their paycheque here.”
Gillis expects a lot of those impacted by the cut will likely leave the area for jobs in Alberta.
“This is not just a Pugwash issue, it’s a Cumberland County issue,” Gillis said. “A lot of these people are going to have to find work, and unfortunately in some cases that means going out west.”
The county councillor said the company has been firm with its decision and he does not believe government money or union concessions would have made any difference.