Workers at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper are breathing a sigh of relief after mine officials announced today there would not be another big layoff. A recent landslide at the Bingham Canyon Mine has forced the company to drastically reduce production and layoff some administrative staff.
Kennecott officials said in a statement Tuesday that they were able to avoid layoffs in part because of the number of employees who opted for an early-retirement option. More than 130 hourly workers accepted the buyout by the June 1st deadline – about half of those who were eligible. Wayne Holland, a representative from the Steel Workers Union, says the announcement is a huge relief.
“After the last few months, and what we thought the potential might be, the news couldn’t be better. We foresaw possibly hundreds of people being laid off. I think a lot of these young guys are very grateful to those who took the early pensions so they could stay on there working,” Holland says.
Kennecott officials said in a statement that cost-cutting measures, along with the previously announced layoff of about 100 salaried workers, has eliminated the need for any further cuts to its workforce at this time. They did say they would be eliminating some unspecified number of jobs, but that the company would offer alternative roles to those workers. Wayne Holland says 34 union workers are expected to be laid off from their work at the concentrator and smelter, but will have the opportunity to fill positions at the mine and tailings area – openings left by those who took early retirement.