Fight for rights
Pension issue not going away says retired miner

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 03/00) - When Don McNenly retired from Giant mine a year ago, he got his pension. But that was life a year ago. On April 1, his pension was cut by one quarter.

May Day's meaning

  • May Day, a day to mark workers, evolved from the Knights of Labour struggle for an eight-hour work day back in the 1880s, says Steve Petersen.
  • On May 1, 1886, over 350,000 workers in Canada and the U.S. participated in a general strike demanding a shorter work day.
  • Among the biggest and most successful protests occurred in Chicago where 40,000 strikers brought the city to a halt. During the labour action, six striking workers were killed.
  • A day after the six strikers were killed, a protest rally was held. Police were on the scene and a bomb killed eight officers. Shots were fired by police and many citizens were killed and wounded. Eight labour leaders were arrested (five were sentenced to death and later hanged and three were eventually pardoned).
  • Word of the events spread and in 1889 in Paris, the International Working Men's Association declared May 1 an international working class holiday.
  • For some, May Day is the real Labour Day.

    He knew the company-funded pension would never go up -- it was not indexed to inflation -- but he certainly did not expect it to fall to $849 from $1,132.

    "I'd like to stay in Yellowknife. I'm going to try," he said.

    McNenly spoke Monday at the May Day event held in front of the post office on Franklin Ave.

    He said he's relatively lucky when it comes to ex-Giant miners shortchanged by an underfunded pension plan. Unlike many miners who won't be getting their full pensions, McNenly said he does not have to pay a monthly mortgage.

    "They can't stay in this town. I guess you could scrape by on bologna sandwiches and juice," he adds.

    "Pricewaterhouse Coopers made a sweetheart of a deal with Miramar. We feel we really got shafted," he said.

    PwC was the interim receiver in the Royal Oak Mines bankruptcy last year. When Giant mine owner Royal Oak went bust, Con mine owner Miramar Mining eventually acquired the property and combined Giant with its Con gold mine operations.

    About 50 Giant mine workers kept their jobs in the combination.

    McNenly also said the underfunding of pensions is "apparently completely legal."

    "Our federal government has neglected the needs of retired Canadians."

    Steve Petersen, with the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, also spoke at the May Day gathering.

    He said when it comes to the labour movement, it is time to "reawaken" the drive for a shorter work week.

    "It would create jobs and offer a better quality of life," he said.

    According to Petersen, the average European worker puts in 1,500 hours per year compared to Canadians who work 1,900 hours.

    In Germany and France, the law gives workers six weeks vacation, he added.