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Port of Churchill lays off staff, shuts down shipping season

File / Crystal Goomansingh / Global News

Dozens of staff who work at the Port of Churchill in northern Manitoba will be out of work in two weeks.

At least 40 employees of the Port of Churchill were told Monday afternoon the grain shipping season will be shut down.

“It is upsetting,” said Nikki Clace, who worked at the port. She said there was a staff meeting at 3:30 p.m. and was told co-workers were emotional with some storming out.

Advocates for grain producers tell Global News the closure is troubling on several levels.

“This is a real surprise they are shutting down,” said Elden Boon, the president of the Hudson Bay Route Association. “The biggest problem is there is grain destined for shipment through Churchill and we are not sure what will happen with that grain.”

Farmers have said this is one of the best years for crops in a long time and the shut down leaves some producers worried. Farmers in central and northern Manitoba as well as northern Saskatchewan use the port.

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Boon said it is hard to put a number of how many farmers will be impacted.

He told Global News the port was still owned by OmniTRAX and a group of First Nation communities had expressed interest buying the port.

RELATED: Northern First Nations hope to buy Manitoba port and rail line

“I just really question what OmniTRAX’s agenda is,” said Boon. “They (OmniTRAX) were telling us there were ships ordered and grain was going to go through the port, that was a few weeks ago and this happens.”

Boon said the port is the largest employer in Churchill and it is too soon to tell what the layoffs will mean to the community.

Calls to OmniTRAX were not returned.

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