06 OCT 1977
Greenland Workers Strike
To: Inuit Circumpolar Conference, North Slope Borough, Barrow, AK, U.S.A.
From: Gronlands Arbejdersammenslutning, Hovedbestyrelsen, Postboks 9, Telegramadresse: Arbejdersam (Copenhagen)
The Association of Workers in Greenland (Gronslands Arbvejdersammenslutning) is launching its first strike ever against the mining company, Greenex a/s, a subsidiary of the Canadian based multinational corporation, Cominco, Inc.
The strike will start on October 17, 1977 if no further negotiations on a renewal of the collective agreement will make the strike unnecessary, the Greenlandic union states in a letter, dated October 3, 1977, to the mining company. The basis for the strike threat is the demand of the union that the discriminatory wage practices of the mining company shall be discontinued. At present, Greenlanders employed by Greenex in the Greenlandic mine, the “Black Angel” do not obtain pay equal to Danish and foreign workers until they have been employed steadily for two and a half years.
Due to lack of funds and experience in the orchestration of strikes, the Association of Workers in Greenland is seeking advice and economic support from Danish and international unions, organizations and private individuals.
The former collective agreement between the Association of Workers in Greenland and Greenex a/s expired in March 1977. To this date bargaining for a new agreement has been unsuccessful in spite of very good economic results for Greenex and in spite of the fact that Greenex has approved in principle equal pay for equal work. Still Greenex maintains that for the first two and one half years, a Greenlandic worker shall receive only five sevenths of the wages received by a Danish worker. Hours wages for Danish and foreign workers in the Greenlandic mine are approximately $6.00, and for Greenlandic workers little more than $4.00.
It is estimated that the demand of the union would have been a cost of a mere $200.000 annually to the mining company which had an economic surplus of $16 million after taxes last fiscal year.
The Association of Workers in Greenland has therefore had no choice but to issue strike notice to Greenex a/s through the Association of Employers in Greenland (c/o Danish Association of Employers).
Mining at the “Black Angel” in the Uammannaq district in Northern Greenland was started in 1973 by Greenex a/s which had been concessioned by the Danish state to mine for zinc and lead.
The mine and mining camp is located in the bottom of the Uummannaq fjord system. It is a typical male community, isolated, with long hours and sub-surface mining, which is hard, physically and mentally. Danish and Greenlandic workers are equally isolated and far from their natural settings. The social costs to the workers are the same, but remuneration not. Of 350 workers, 64 are Greenlanders.
However, the Association of Workers in Greenland is a young union, only twenty years old and not very well equipped for labor conflict. So far our main opponent in negotiations has been the Danish state and we have had but little influence on the budgetary process which set the guidelines for the major economic activities in Greenland, including wage negotiations. Non-unionized workers were paid by the same scale by the state as organized labor, and private employers often paid better, since the framework for the wage level in Greenland were made up by political considerations rather than economic ones. Unionizing has therefore been a difficult process and our membership rate is relatively low, but rapidly increasing. This is our first strike and we have no strike fund. We are therefore seeking advice, moral, and economic support from Danish and International Labor, organizations of Indigenous peoples and other organizations, and private individuals.
It is important for the future efforts of the Greenlandic people to improve our living conditions and to become masters in our own country that this effort proves effective. It is important to prove to our members that active struggle can help, to prove to those who are hesitant that it pays to join and to prove to future parties to negotiations with us, that we are serious and effective in our efforts.
We therefore ask you to assist us in any way within your capacity. At present we can not, however, predict our economic needs as they will depend on the tenacity of the struggle.
All inquiries, comments and contributions should be addressed to: G.A.S. Solidaritet, The Greenlandic House, Lovstraede 6, DK-1152 Copenhagen K, Denmark. Cable address: kalatdlit, Copenhagen.
…(signed) Jens Lyberth, Secretary General A.W.G.
Inuit Circumpolar Conference Interim Committee, Greenland Division:
Robert Petersen, Ove Rosing Olsen, and Kristian Poulsen