A major blow for workers at a Colonsay potash mine Wednesday morning.
Mosaic handed out pink slips to 95 per cent of its work force, around 368 employees, at the facility located roughly 77 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.
The lay offs are temporary and workers could be recalled Jan. 3, 2017.
Mike Pulak, staff representative with the steelworkers union, said as people arrived to work, they were marshalled into separate rooms to receive the news.
“We’re shocked and awed, dumbfounded I would say, because currently right now we’ve been working without a contract and bargaining for over 15 months now,” Pulak said.
Pulak said most workers had prepared for some time without pay while the mine was scheduled for a six-week maintenance shut down this summer; but none expected months without work.
The union said Mosaic told workers the decision was made due to slow sales, and that sales would be handled by its Esterhazy operation in the meantime.
“It makes sense to keep the sales with our people (in Colonsay) because our hourly wage right now is lower, our benefits are lower; Esterhazy received increases – it makes no sense economically why they would do that,” Pulak said.
The union isn’t ruling out the possibility that ongoing contract talks might have impacted the lay offs; however, Pulak said it was likely the company’s intent to issue the notices no matter the outcome.
“We voted down the contract on Monday by 99.3 per cent,” Pulak said. “We’ve been frustrated with the process, trying to get back to the bargaining table.”
The Colonsay mine employs 400 workers, and has maintained positions for 32 people. It will be in what’s known as care maintenance mode until operations resume.