Westmoreland Estevan mine General Manager Tom Shaw confirmed that changes are coming and up to 25 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 7606 employees in operations and maintenance are to be permanently laid off, with the final list to be announced on March 4.
The notice was sent out to the employees on Feb. 18, offering hourly workers the opportunity to apply for voluntary layoff and/or early retirement to minimize the impact.
“The employees are very good employees are very strong and they are responding very well. It’s a difficult time as you might anticipate,” said Shaw.
“What I want to do right now is to focus my attention on our employees. They are very good employees and they are very important to me. So my focus right now is to try to be there for the employees and get them as much support, I hope, as I can get."
Shaw noted that there are still some things that they have to work through, for that reason in the notice they intentionally said that “up (25) UMWA represented employees” would be permanently laid off. There will be more clarity after Feb. 28, when the list of everyone who is willing to step forward and is granted voluntary separation is formed. There are no expectations on how many people will decide to do so.
As for any more changes in the company, Shaw said they are not likely to happen, but it will depend on the economy.
“I have no idea what the economy is going to do, but right now I’m not anticipating (any more lay offs - editor),” said Shaw.
The notice says that coal sales are being impacted by availability of low-priced natural gas and the imposition of carbon taxes on the customers, which are the driving forces to less demand for coal and thus for changes in the company.