Salt Miners’ Defence of Health and Safety – A Matter of Life and Death
One of the major issues striking miners at Windsor Salt are raising in relation to the demand by the new owners, Stone Canyon Industries Holdings, to contract out work and attack their union’s ability to function, is related to health and safety. The miners note that the work they do can be very dangerous if proper standards of health and safety — which have been worked out during the 130 years of salt mining operations in Windsor — are not upheld. It is the workers, through their union, that uphold such standards day-in and day-out because their lives rely on them. For example, workers explain that when there is blasting taking place to loosen the salt, everyone — from those doing the blasting to mechanics who are a large distance away — are not permitted to be underground. There are systems in place to ensure that everyone is out of the mine before any blasting happens.
The workers uphold these standards as a matter of pride to keep themselves and their co-workers safe. This is but one example and workers are clear that it is in part these types of safety standards that the company wants to attack, reduce, or even eliminate, to cut costs in the hopes that they can then flip the operation to another buyer for a quick buck.
The form attacking the health and safety standards in the mines takes is bringing in contract labour that can be hired or fired on the whim of the owners with no job security or legal standing from which to stand up for themselves and their co-workers in an organized way. It also takes the form of the company’s demand to reduce or eliminate paid union time where workers can do union business. All of this is to weaken and eliminate the organized voice of the workers, through their union, and ability to uphold the standards and conditions they have given rise to through their work over the 130 years of operations that has been passed down from one generation of worker to the next.