Work­ers build­ing navy ships vote to strike

The Expositor (Brantford) - - NATIONAL NEWS - MICHAEL TUTTON

HAL­I­FAX — The union at the Hal­i­fax ship­yard where the “back­bone” of the next gen­er­a­tion of Royal Cana­dian Navy ves­sels are be­ing built has given 48- hour strike no­tice, with picket lines ex­pected to go up Satur­day morn­ing.

Uni­for is­sued a news re­lease is­sued late Wed­nes­day say­ing a strong ma­jor­ity of 850 union­ized em­ploy­ees at Irv­ing’s Hal­i­fax Ship­yard have re­jected a ten­ta­tive con­tract.

Marine Work­ers Fed­er­a­tion Lo­cal 1 said in the re­lease that 75 per cent of its mem­bers voted against the deal of­fered fol­low­ing eight months of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The lo­cal said the four- year ten­ta­tive agree­ment that was re­jected in­cluded in­creases of 1.5 per cent per year over the next four years.

Uni­for said the em­ployer did not agreed to paid sick days for work­ers, how­ever.

“This is not just about eco­nom­ics, it’s about re­spect for work­ers and fix­ing the work­place for mem­bers and they are clearly send­ing a strong mes­sage to Irv­ing to­day,” Jerry Dias, Uni­for’s na­tional pres­i­dent, said in the state­ment.

A spokesper­son for J. D. Irv­ing was con­tacted by email and tele­phone, but the com­pany said Thurs­day morn­ing it was still work­ing on a pub­lic re­sponse re­gard­ing the loom­ing labour dis­pute.

Larry Haiven, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of labour re­la­tions at the Sobeys school of busi­ness at Saint Mary’s Univer­sity in Hal­i­fax, said in an in­ter­view that it ap­pears the ten­sions have been brew­ing for some time.

“This comes af­ter sev­eral years of man­age­ment tight­en­ing the screws. There’s a lot of bag­gage that comes into this set of ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he said.

“It’s not just the pay lev­els or the ben­e­fits. There’s a lot of bad blood, a lot of dis­ci­plinary ac­tions. There’s a lot on the ta­ble be­yond the usual.”

Still, the 69- year- old ob­server of Hal­i­fax’s labour scene said it’s dif­fi­cult to pre­dict what will un­fold in the clos­ing hours be­fore the an­tic­i­pated walk­out.

“You never know un­til the 11th hour and even past it,” he said.

Haiven said while the union mem­ber­ship may be “an­gry,” the right of­fer could still pre­vent a strike.

One fac­tor that may en­cour­age a deal is that the ship­build­ing yard is on a tight sched­ule to pro­duce the order for the fed­eral govern­ment, Haiven said.

“The fact there are or­ders on the books and no­body wants to see the place shut down for awhile is go­ing to push both sides,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease is­sued on May 30 by J. D. Irv­ing, Canada’s first Arc­tic and off­shore pa­trol ship is set to launch this fall.

The ship­yard said it is plan­ning to build up to six Arc­tic and off­shore Pa­trol Ships and 15 Cana­dian Sur­face Com­bat­ants over the next 25 years, re­fer­ring to the projects as “the back­bone of the Royal Cana­dian Navy.”

The first three ships, Harry DeWolf, Mar­garet Brooke, and Max Ber­nays, are cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion at the ship­yard.

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