Uncertainty runs in the veins of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We are no stranger to the unknown of the economy. Living in a town that was founded on its extractable riches, uncertainty was Labrador City’s main emotion for seven weeks. On March 27, the United Steelworkers of Local 5795 voted in favour of a strike against IOC, due to wages and the temporary workers contract. In addition to tough economic times of IOC workers, the working class of youth within the community were also impacted. In the prior weeks, working youth experienced concerns for the future, such as debt, lack of jobs, and the financial support they need.
In the beginning of the strike’s early days, youth workers noticed a cutback in the hours they were receiving. Businesses began to see a decrease in customers and sales, with most youth workers employed in the fast food or restaurant industry, the need for employees was no longer there. As a result of the cut hours, workers experienced a decrease in their paychecks. Despite what many may think, most youth in the community pay for their own bills and expenses, such as cell phone bills and vehicle payments. With the lack of income, many feared how they would pay for the bills that were piling up.
Gradually over time, when there was no end in sight, jobs that students had high hopes for fell through. As the deadline for the summer student positions with the town were closing in, the need for workers was going to be unnecessary. When the town promised to give university students priority, because IOC would not be hiring, high school students were discouraged that they will miss out on a well-paying job. Not only would students have missed out on the money, they would have missed the job experience. Whether it was a summer program position, students wanted these jobs as experience to further their careers.
Towards the end of the strike, when the town’s financial situation looked grim, parents began to wonder what was in store for their children who will be travelling to post-secondary schooling. Students and their parents were concerned about affording tuition and other university expenses. For some students, paying for post-secondary is their responsibility, but due to the lack of income their attempt to take on that responsibility fell short. Although the working class youth still rely on their parents for financial support, these students are becoming financially independent and are learning about the hardships our economy possesses. With the combination of cut hours and the decrease in pay, every member in each household felt the struggle to rely on each other.
Growing up and working in a mining town, everyone comes to the understanding that the minerals in the ground we live on has the power to rule our lives. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have adapted to the unpredictable challenges the economy throws at us.
As for the youth of Labrador City, the strike was a learning experience, to understand the value of money. What many do not realize about the youth in our community is that most are financially independent; therefore the strike affected their work life, future job opportunities, and their financial role in their households.
In conclusion, not only were employees of IOC affected by the strike, the entire town was. Within seven weeks youth experienced the struggle of tough financial times. Above all, a positive outcome of the strike was that it taught future generations what it feels like to have thin wallets and empty pockets.
Rebecca Smith is a Grade 12 student at Menehik High School.