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Waiting for dismissal

Apprentice Per Øyvind Storvoll, miner Nicklas Øyen, driver Viggo Knutsen and miner Finn-Arne Rasmussen having a lunch break in Mine 7. FOTO: Line Nagell Ylvisåker

Waiting for dismissal

The workers in Mine 7 are fearing five of the 12 miners must now shower away the coal dust for the last time.

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29.11.2014 kl 00:14

"Do you know when before we begin applying?" asks Finn-Arne Rasmussen.

He is sitting with his lunch box in the break room of Mine 7 and reaping laughter.
It is Tuesday, the day after the board of directors at Store Norske decided to eliminate the jobs of at least 100 people. There are 12 miners in Mine 7. Five are fearing they may be among the 100. They were told about the decision Monday night, after the board meeting.

"I think it has been expected," Rasmussen says. "The atmosphere has been pretty good, but there is a little talk."


Will cry
Miner Joachim Myhrvang is sitting with legs on the table and eating.

"If I lose my job Viggo, I get a hug then?" he asks, scraping his bowl.

"Then I'm going to cry," responds driver Viggo Knutsen.

Myhrvang has worked at Store Norske for three-and-a-half years and is pretty sure he will not get to continue working.

"During the previous cutback I was saved with one month's seniority," he says. "Now the board has written that they will terminate at least 100. It will be suspenseful to see how many there are."

If he has to leave the company, he says he does not think he will remain in Longyearbyen. He is now seeking work in Oslo.

"Then I must buy back my old snowmobile," interjects Svein Jonny Albrigsen from his corner.

"Yeah, now that it is running well again," Myhrvang replies as laughter rolls through the room.

Then he adds that when he asked management if he will have a job at the end of December or in January he got no response. His work agreement has a one-month notice period and Dec. 1 is approaching.


READ MORE: She must make cuts

Replacements
During the previous cutback round there were also some who had to leave Mine 7. They were replaced by people from Svea with more seniority.

"It'll be the same now if they do not want to preserve the expertise here," Albrigtsen says.

He says this is the biggest downsizing he has seen during the nearly 30 years he has been here.

"It is important that politicians now realize the seriousness and repercussions this will have on the city," he says. "It is up to Parliament now."


Layoffs and commuters
While Store Norske is scaling down, income taxes are going up for workers who commute from the mainland due to a change in eligibility for Svalbard's special tax rate effective Jan. 1.

"The layoffs ought to come three months after the tax change," Guttorm Wilhelmsen says. "There are probably many commuters who are holding back now."

"Many might think that it is not so easy to get a job down there when 100 people are going from here," Klaus Ryberg says. "They are hedging in order to be secure."

"I also think there are many with low seniority who have not started to apply," Myhrvang says.

"There are many who do not realize the seriousness," Albrigtsen says.
Klaus Ryberg has worked at Store Norske since May 2012 and in Mine 7 since August. He has already started seeking new jobs, both in Longyearbyen and on the mainland.

"How much will you get in unemployment benefits?" Knutsen asks.

"Between 21,000 and 22,000 kroner here in Svalbard," Ryberg responds.

Albrigtsen says the cleaning staff may be let go and the miners will have to do the cleaning themselves.

"At Svea in the old days we were put to cleaning, Knutsen says.

The chat goes on for a while, shifting to the possibility of supplying Longyearbyen with coal from Svea. Then it becomes completely silent.

"No, Joackim. It is quiet here if you are dragged from us," Knutsen says.


READ MORE: Preparing to downsize


Positive until the end
The break room empties out for the bus. They go down to the vehicles and get themselves ready to ride into what was the black gold.

Rasmussen says he does not feel secure about the future. He has been at Store Norske for three-and-a-half years during his current stint and for six-and-a-half years previously.

"It would be naive to believe that you are sure," he says. "I hope the years I have worked previously come in handy."

If not, he says he probably must leave town with his wife and four children.

"I'm assuming that," he says. "Then she must give up her job at the kindergarten, and we have to take out two young ones from the kindergarten and two from the school. First we brought our kids up, now we may have to bring them down. And then we have our cabin here. Perhaps we must sell that. It will be a tough fight if that message comes, but I am choosing to be positive until the contrary is proven."

Se bildet større

Despite the situation in Store Norske, the atmosphere is still cheerful, tells Tommy Albrigtsen, Joachim Myhrvang, Klaus Ryberg, Nicklas Øyen and Finn-Arne Rasmussen.
 FOTO: Line Nagell Ylvisåker

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