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Mining association says federal wage subsidy could ‘help prevent further layoffs’

Tuesday, March 31, 2020 @ 11:59 AM | By John Chunn

The March 30 announcement by the federal government extending the wage subsidy to include businesses of all sizes, is a critical component of a package of reforms designed to help businesses keep workers employed as the economy transitions through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the employer of 626,000 individuals across Canada, accounting for one in every 30 jobs across the country, the wage subsidy will play a significant role in providing much needed support to Canada’s mining industry, according to the government’s press release.

“As is the case with many sectors, mining has been heavily impacted by COVID-19, with multiple companies reducing or suspending operations at mines, smelters and refineries across Canada, resulting in tens of thousands of layoffs of direct and indirect employees,” said Pierre Gratton, president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC). “The wage subsidy will help prevent further layoffs, thus minimizing both the scale and extent of disruption to both businesses, employees and contractors, and better position the mining sector to resume operations and support the many thousands of individuals who depend on it for employment.”     

The announcement will see 75 per cent of an employee’s salary up to $58,700 temporarily subsidized by government in an effort to prevent layoffs, and the disruption to both businesses and employees associated with such actions. Backdated to March 15, businesses and non-profit organizations seeing a drop of at least 30 per cent in revenue due to COVID-19 will be eligible for the program. MAC says it has engaged and looks forward to further specifics of the program, but welcomes the intent, and the government’s recognition that there is a benefit to minimizing the extent of business and worker disruption in a period of amplified uncertainty.

“MAC’s members have issued statements and updates on a near-constant basis focused on company-specific responses to COVID-19. Many have reduced their workforces and put, often voluntarily, mines on care and maintenance, a process that ensures sites are being managed effectively and are in safe and stable condition when production has ceased,” said Gratton. “The support being offered through this new program will enable mining companies to retain their workforces in the face of significant economic hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Over the past several weeks, MAC has worked closely with government decision makers from different departments to ensure the mining industry’s voice is being heard when economic recovery efforts are discussed. MAC will continue to engage with the government as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.

The mining industry is a major sector of Canada’s economy, contributing $97 billion to national GDP and responsible for 19 per cent of Canada’s total domestic exports. The industry is proportionally the largest private sector employer of Indigenous peoples in Canada and a major customer of Indigenous-owned businesses.