Kiruna Storyteller Supplier Union

Storyteller #33 – work vs community?

Next storyteller is one of the ombudsmen inside the gates, reflecting on the recurrent theme of people doing work in the Kiruna mine but living (and paying taxes) elsewhere:

It would be better if they move up, then there might have been more lively here [as in more pulse in the local community]. And there would also be more tax money in this town. This depletes… But if you get an assignment to work in Kiruna for four years, why bring the family here if you perhaps already is a worker who moves around? Those who were here and built our new main level [at 1365 meters below ground] are such people.

Reading a report about the mining industry from 2015, written by the central organisation of the union IF Metall (with sections in Malmberget, Svappavaara and Kiruna), it is stated that:

Overall, the mining industry has had a larger share of entrepreneurs compared to many other industries. In 2013 the companies reported that entrepreneurs represented about 45 percent of the working time. Maintenance and repair as well as drilling and loading are often contracted out. (page 42; our translation) 


Visiting Kiruna again

Its been a while since we were in Kiruna and although in a writing-up phase, Johan went up there earlier this week, meeting with some of those we’ve talked to over the years (and some new ones!) as well as experiencing first hand how the movement of the city centre due to the expanding mine is progressing.

Most of those whom Johan talks to are frustrated over the fact that the new city centre is dismantled while the new one only consists of a new city hall under construction. They’re anxious of the ‘in-between’ period. They share stories of people moving from Kiruna to the coast. On the other hand, there are also positive forces at play. On the day of Johan’s arrival there is a full day seminar with local people from different sectors that aims at triggering constructive processes and here the stories are more positive, more opportunity oriented. On the day, the annual book fair also has its first out of three evenings with nationally and internationally renowned authors, a very impressive event, drawing full house in the big auditorium in Folkets Hus. Kiruna lives.

The city-scape, however, has really changed in a rather short time. Although Johan, as an outsider, is not supposed to have the emotional ties that so many ‘Kirunaites’ have, it still hits him. The iconic clock tower of the city hall where we had our exhibition has been dismantled (re-located to the new city hall, see picture below, part of it stands on the right side) and this single act has a bigger effect on the landscape than can be anticipated. Not to overstate it, but it’s like removing the Eiffel Tower from Paris, at least.

The last of the houses on Ullspiran has been teared down (we’ve been filming the early phases of this processes, posted on the blog) and the Hjalmar Lundbohm house has been re-located (you see the house in its new location at the bottom-left of the picture below).

We hope for one more trip to Kiruna before the project ends at New Year.

Art Luleå

Closing the exhibition…

All good things come to an end, but then again, although we closed our exhibition in Luleå this weekend, it is ready to go to another place, in another time:-)

We’re grateful to the city library in Luleå for making this possible and to all the visitors, some of who left very kind words in our guestbook!

Art Luleå

Opening the exhibition!

Yesterday we opened the exhibition of the project at the city library in Luleå. Colleagues, friends and strangers made it through our photos, videos, sounds, music and texts, as well as Magnus Fredriksson’s artwork. We’re very happy to be able to have this interaction with people and hope many more find their way to the library during the remained of September (we close the exhibition on Sep 30).

A friend and colleague to us, professor Rickard Garvare, took some wonderful photos, which he has allowed us to share on our site:

Aboriginals Cameco Canada Kiruna Management Storyteller Supplier Uranium

Storytellers #29 and #30 – using local contractors

The general trend in the mining industry is to increase the use of contractors in order to be more flexible, adaptable and cost-effective. Whether this is achieved can be debated, but the trend is clear and although the markets for iron ore (the Kiruna case) and uranium (the McArthur River/Key Lake case) are different, they are both nevertheless highly influenced by ‘boom and bust’, ‘feast and famine’. Walking the fine line between stability and adaptability is highlighted in northern Saskatchewan, where companies like Cameco has to engage local firms and workers as part of the regional agreements (written about earlier on this blog). Interestingly, in some of the conversations, this is lifted as a competitive advantage from both sides of the table, and although more complex than this, the arguments boil down to ‘local knowledge’ and to ‘loyalty’. The first quote below is from a contractor owned by an indigenous band from the north and the second quote is from a manager at Cameco.

companies like Cameco learn that we can deliver and can count on our loyalty to mobilise quickly and to do it quickly as well because we understand what it takes to get it up there. We get to know the local people, it’s easier to identify with the locals. So after a period of time companies like ours starting to have a clear returning in investment back to Cameco.

I would say that the work we do with the contractors has become more stable over the years because we have pushed to have more northern content in our contracts, for workers as well. I think things like that have made Cameco more stable, has made it more stable for the contractors.

Cameco Canada Kiruna Storyteller Worker

Storyteller #28 – mining and community

Next storyteller is a man from Saskatchewan, Canada, living in a small town up north called La Ronge. He works at MCA. When reflecting over the challenges for northern communities where a large portion work for the mining industry, he praises Cameco, the company, for its efforts, but also emphasises the many challenges still to deal with. This quote about La Ronge comes to mind as we’re daily seeing pictures from Kiruna and the tearing down of houses due to the mine expanding (just recently, the old railway station):

when I was growing up we had movie theatres and pool halls, bowling alleys. We had a sport store for fishing gear and hockey equipment and all that stuff. None of that is there anymore, only Robertsons trading. There is a liquor store there and a few bars. That is not a good thing, because of the youth and those who are not working they tend to fall into the alcoholism and that’s bad for everybody. It starts fights and wreck families.

Kiruna Supplier

Storyteller #27 – an offer you can resist…

Next storyteller works for an employment agency in the Kiruna region. We talked about how they worked with recruitment for the mining sector in and around Kiruna, and how that oftentimes involves not only a potential miner but also his/her family.

– This issue with ”tandem recruitment”, that we work with…
What’s that?
– Well, oftentimes you work with, as in Kiruna for example, getting people to move here and then the person might have a wife or a husband who searches for a job in other professions. Then it’s a matter of informing about the need for people in the space industry, in the tourism industry, healthcare, education, to show how the schools work and the range [of things to do] beyond work. […] That [the housing issue, finding accommodation in Kiruna] has been the hardest part actually. Perhaps they’ve got a job and started working but then they go back home, saying that this doesn’t work out when it hasn’t been possible to arrange a permanent accommodation, not being able to bring the family.
Has that become an issue with this fly-in and fly-out?
– It has a lot to do with that, for sure. And that’s because the companies have been forced to use this 7-7 [7 days on site, 7 days at home] and so on, although they don’t really want to. They want the people who come here to settle, but they’ve been forced to adjust in order to get the right competence. But it has slowed down a bit since we’re in this period now [lower iron ore prices].


Workshop on SLO

Participating at a research workshop on social license to operate in mining, with researchers from Luleå, Umeå, Stockholm and Uleåborg (Finland). Good discussions!

Art Kiruna

Time for an art exhibition

Between March 11-25, an art exhibit of Organizing rocks will be on display in the city hall in Kiruna. It is organised by the local art association, Kiruna Konstgille. The exhibition also includes illustrations of our project by the local artist Magnus Fredriksson (one of his illustration serves as the picture for this blogpost).

In the exhibition we intend to evoke the question of how we can understand the organising of a mine. Contrasting our two cases – the Kiruna mine and the McArthur River mine – with each other, we particularly hope to raise questions and trigger thoughts about where a labor process begins and ends, and how this might be relevant for where Kiruna is heading.

To be given the opportunity to exhibit our project in Kiruna, and in Sweden’s most beautiful city hall, is beyond any of our expectations. We are very grateful to the art association for this chance.

Click here for the invitation in Swedish. Please spread the word!


Aboriginals Kiruna Storyteller Worker

Storyteller #25 – an indigenous voice

Talking to an indigenous man from one of the Same villages in the Kiruna area, we ask:

In your village, with reindeer herding and such, is it okay to work in the mine?

Yes, it is. It must be up to each one of us because we live in a society that looks the way it does. With the economic values we have, I completely understand a young person growing up with his or her friends and who wants a modern car, a new snow mobile and… things with status. We all slip into it. They work extra in the mine. As for myself, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Kiruna LKAB Politician Storyteller Union Worker

Storyteller #24 – the work rotation vs. the local community

Last year we met a local politician in Kiruna. One theme in our conversation was how different work rotation schedules related to the local community, since workers who work in Kiruna but don’t live in Kiruna also don’t pay taxes in the municipality. The politician said:

When we discussed about there being a lot of people commuting [from outside the municipality to work in the mine], they have these work rotations schedules where they work seven days and are free seven days. There has been a discussion about whether or not IF Metall [the workers’ union] perhaps should make LK[AB] stop this. But, even those who live in Kiruna want these schedules. It’s very much a matter of… Before they [many commuters] went home to Tornedalen… They really want this. Work seven days and then spend seven days in their cabins. But the union doesn’t dare to push the issue since it works against their members.

Kiruna LKAB Storyteller

Storyteller #22 – young people with money

Part of our research strategy and ideas on where a labor process begins and ends, is that we cannot only talk to people in the core of the process, as in workers, managers and suppliers. Other people and other places might also be relevant. Our next storyteller is an example of this. She is a young woman, who has grown up in Kiruna and now works in town for a company not related to mining.

The mine controls the town.

Is it so?

Mm, it is so from my point of view and I think most people share my view. The mine controls the town. That’s how it is.

Okay, in what way?

If the mine wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t live here either. It was the mine that attracted all people here and that formed Kiruna. If they would have to close down now, than everybody would move out of here. There’d be no jobs left. […]

Would you consider working in the mine?

Yes, money, that’s why. But beyond this, I don’t know. […] I don’t like that when you’re 19 years old you get 25.000 crowns [Swedish crowns, SEK] in the hand, when a normal 19 years old get max 16.000 crowns […] The differences are radical and they don’t get to see the real world. […] You see them buy new snowmobiles, fourwheelers, cars, when they are like 25 years old. […] That’s no reality. You’ve lost reality. […] a lot of them save up to a new car, but most of them also take loans because they know they’ll continue [working for the company], even though there’s nothing in writing, they know they’ll continue. […] But I’m probably jealous of them, but I’m angry with LK[AB] for paying these salaries. It’s sad that a 19 years old cannot see his or her reality in the salary. They should have age-determined salaries, so it’s LK that’s doing it wrong. Poor things [the young workers] who later have to face reality for real, its crappy for them being spoiled like this. It’s like being “curled” by a parent except that here LK is the biggest mother in town.


Kiruna Nature Storyteller Supplier Worker

Storyteller #21 – mine and society

Our next storyteller is a woman, grown up in the Kiruna area and now working for a supplier to the Kiruna mine. During our conversation we discussed all kinds of topics related to the mine and to work. Below, we’ve selected two quotes from her thoughts on the mine and society:

If you would put words on the relation between you and the mine? What does it [the mine] do to a person living in Kiruna?

I’d say that the mine has… When times in the mine are bad, it influences people, there are many working there. A negative impact, impacts society, that is Kiruna as a city, the inhabitants. When times are bad in the mine, its noticeable in society. When times in the mine are good, its also noticeable. I think that if the mine slows down and there is a recession, even if other types of businesses wouldn’t have to, they still get cautious, they think ‘now times are bad’. Perhaps you postpone purchases until later. I think you’re influenced although not really conscious of it. […]

This trend where they extract more ore with less hands, is that talked about? […]

Yes, well, it’s as if they extract more with less hands, and in a faster pace I would say. Sometimes I wonder if the mountain has time to catch up. Do you see what I mean? Does it have the time to settle… we’re taking something that… a resource that exists. We make a hole in it but does it allows us to do it? Are we moving too fast? We just take and take and take, soon the mountain might protest and just collapse.

Kiruna Storyteller Supplier Worker

Storyteller #20 – they say fly-in/fly-out

Next storyteller, a young man, works for a contractor to the Kiruna mine.

– I’m from [Nn], about 300 km from Kiruna. I’ve been working in Kiruna for almost four years. Fly in, fly out.

– Do you say that? Fly in, fly out?

– Well that’s how others say it so…

– Who others?

– Who look at us, who don’t live here, where I work. Or, how to put it, I don’t use the word myself, but that’s how it is, you come here and work, and then I go home. […]

– Is it meant in a negative way or is it just a…?

– No, it’s just the way it is, what can I say… There are a lot [of us commuting] who don’t have any plans to move here, you just come and get work and then you go home.

– Have you thought about moving here?

– No, not so far.

– Why not?

– Well, I’m not… I don’t know. […] At first, I worked Monday to Thursday every week, I went home over the weekend, but I thought it was a lot of driving so I wanted to start working 7/7 instead.