tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

Category Archives: Management

End of the road? Part 4


We’re not allowed anymore to go inside the gates in Kiruna, to meet workers and managers during their work-time. This is the message from both LKAB:s top management and the chairman of the board, a message that is unfortunate for the project but that we, of course, will respect. The song “Outside the Gates” is an emotional response to this decision, but as the first line goes: “This is not […]

Working hard or hardly working?


On March 18, local newspapers report that two workers at LKAB:s iron ore mine in Malmberget (125 km from Kiruna) have been caught furnishing a secret sleeping room at work. On March 26, they are fired. Two other workers chose to resign. On March 20, we arrive in Kiruna, and the first person we meet is the man delivering the rental car. He is born and raised in Kiruna, and […]

Goffman and the Wolfpack


“How long would it take for me to know what’s really going on here?”, I asked. “About three to four months”, the worker answered. I looked at my watch. Twenty hours to go before my flight back to Saskatoon. It takes time to get to know the social codes of a wolfpack. Arriving, staying at and leaving the McArthur River mine site, I kept thinking of the sociological opportunity to study […]

Automation


“No hands in the mine” – a Utopian tale driven by technological advances, but also very much a real thing, something that is happening in the world of mining. It is thus not something that only belongs to the visionary, it is also very strategic and concrete. Over time, there are less hands in the mine as miners are replaced by machines or moved to control rooms above ground, joysticking […]

Visiting the Key Lake mill


Key Lake is where the uranium from MCA is processed, turned into “yellow cake” (which in the end is black), and then exported. The mill is about 80 km from the mine, about an hour drive on roads controlled by Cameco, and on which the slurry trucks go back and forth. Aboriginals entitled to be on the land are also allowed on the roads. I ride with Ryan and although the landscape […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 1)


The presence (past and present) of indigenous people in northern Saskatchewan significantly influences the labour process of MCA. It’s quite a contrast to Kiruna where the Sami people have a more peripheral, even marginalized position. People established in northern Saskatchewan are sometimes referred to as Residents of Saskatchewan’s North (RSN). There are about 37000 RSN and more than “85% of the population in northern Saskatchewan identify themselves as Aboriginal [Cree, Métis, […]

Fly-in/fly-out


Work at the McArthur River uranium mine (and at all other Cameco mines in northern Saskatchewan) is predominantly divided into two shifts, one day and one night shift. 12 hours of work per day, lunch included. The absolute majority of workers do seven days on site, then seven days off (7/7). Top management on site, however, works Monday to Thursday and then Friday to Sunday off. Some of the workers […]

Down the uranium mine


Follow Johan underground in the McArthur River uranium mine (MCA). Safety first. I’m taken to a locker room where I get the gear and the information necessary to be allowed underground. I then meet my guide, Curtis, a maintenance foreman. He used to work with oil sands in Alberta, but the long hours commuting to work meant too much time away from home and family in Saskatchewan. He has now […]

1969-2015-?


What is the relation between capital and workers today? Is a political will and struggle still present? As in the strike in 1969/1970 where the predominant part of the workers (a strong collective) in Svappavaara and Kiruna jointly shouted out that “we are humans”, “we want higher salaries”, “a safer and more humane workload”. If human dignity, salary, and safe and humane working conditions were essential in the 1969 strike, then […]

End of the road? Part 3


Faced with the reply from a top manager that the company LKAB has no interest to participate in our project, one outcome so far is that we were contacted by a person, that we met previously, that could help us to establish new routes to workers and managers. News travel fast.  

End of the road? Part 2


“Who [from the company] governs you?”, the middle manager asks. “Nobody”, one of us answers. This conversation took place in a coffee room inside the gates of LKAB and the meeting was coincidental. The answer to the question was appearingly very provocative, received by a person who took very seriously the importance of line, hierarchy and control. Albeit differently put, we’ve received this question before, but we have then, to […]