Municipal officials said Greenstone has had a 25 per cent turnover rate in its public works department and is struggling to recruit new staff as the area's mine shifts into operation.
Greenstone CAO Mark Wright provided an update to the town's council during a recent meeting, while also suggesting that more departures could happen.
“The mine coming in is a blessing and it is also a bit of a curse,” Greenstone Mayor James McPherson said.
“The blessing is that it’s creating a significant number of good-paying jobs, but the municipality also has good-paying jobs. We have very steady shifts. We have a very good pension plan. Those employees who are looking for a change are looking for significant monetary changes in their life. We can’t compete.”
Equinox Gold and Orion Mine Finance are partners in construction of an open-pit gold mine, just south of the town of Geraldton. The project is currently at the half-way mark of construction. Hundreds of contractors are currently at the site. By the time of the first gold pour in the first half of 2024, the mine will offer employment for 450.
McPherson said while the municipality can't compete with the wages offered by the mine, the municipal jobs have long-term security. The staffing challenges have affected municipal services in Greenstone.
“The impacts we are seeing are at different rates. Maybe you are used to getting your street plowed within so many minutes of the snowstorm finishing. Well, it may be a couple of hours than you normally had it or you go to certain ward offices and there may not be somebody there because we can get somebody to cover an absence,” McPherson said.
Other affected services, according to the council report, are closure or reduced hours at arenas, delayed response to water breaks, reduced spots or suspended services at day cares and after-school programming, and suspension of transportation programs.
As the municipal staff scrambles to fill in the gaps to prevent further service interruptions, McPherson said that there is a ripple effect.
“While those holes are getting filled, there will be service interruptions. Plus, we have to train people. So, the expertise has left. The biggest thing right now is finding someone to replace those experts,” McPherson said.
McPherson is confident municipal staff are doing the best job at coming up with creative solutions to recruiting and retaining employees.