Ex-Westray Employees Block Site

Contractor prevented from starting work on
dismantling the Westray Mine surface structures

Ex-Westray Employees Block Site

This article appeared in
The Daily News
Halifax, Tuesday, February 10, 1998

Plymouth, Pictou County (CP) — Former Westray Coal employees blocked the road into the mine site yesterday, preventing contractors from taking the first steps toward dismantling structures on the property.

The former employees are part of a group looking for financial compensation. They lost their jobs when the mine exploded in May 1992, killing all 26 men underground.

"We want the place to come down," said former plant supervisor Melvin Skinner – but the forty former workers he represents also want compensation. "We have no intentions of moving."

The province has ruled 117 former unionized miners are eligible for twelve weeks' severance pay. But the 40 non-unionized workers missed the deadline to file a claim. Those workers said that's because they weren't aware of their rights at the time and had no one to represent them.

Skinner said anyone on Westray's payroll when the mine exploded should receive compensation. He said he has the support of the unionized workers.

Two trucks tried to enter the mine site yesterday morning. Skinner said he explained his position and the trucks left. Other trucks drove by but didn't attempt to enter, he said.

If confronted by police, Skinner said the protesters will move. Otherwise, he said someone will have to use a crane to move his car out of the way – unless the province talks to him.

He also maintains he has the support of some of the subcontractors taken on by Allsteel Contractors Ltd. of Port Hastings, Inverness Co., which won the $847,770 contract to dismantle and reclaim the mine site.

Allsteel officials could not be reached for comment.

Chris Welner of the Department of Transportation and Public Works said the contractor has six months to fulfil its contract. "This is just the first day at the work site," he said.

Go To:   Westray Scrapbook Fifty clippings about the Westray coal mine disaster
Go to:   Main Westray Coal Mine Disaster page
Go to:   Westray Public Inquiry online transcript of testimony
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First uploaded to the WWW:   1998 February 10