Irving Shipyard workers vote for strike mandate

Billions of dollars in government funding, forgivable loans and special tax breaks later, the Irving Shipyard is arguing over a 10-minute paid break.

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If only the Irvings had some money.
  • If only the Irvings had some money.

Unionized employees of the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard voted 99 percent in favour of a strike mandate this past weekend.

More than 700 members of Unifor’s Marine Workers Local 1 showed up to a meeting Sunday for an update on their current collective agreement, which expires December 31.

The news wasn’t good.

“After a healthy discussion, a strike vote was held, which resulted in a decisively strong mandate for the [bargaining] committee at more than 99 percent,” reads a statement from Unifor on its website.

The union is claiming Irving requested provincial conciliation after just four days at the bargaining table and then issued “misleading and concerning statements” in media interviews.

The company’s opening offer to the unionized technicians included “33 pages of major concessions” from the union, says Unifor, including the elimination of seniority, break periods and numerous safety measures.

“Their proposals do not reflect improved or modernized working conditions, as the removal of breaks and safety provisions are not improvements.”

According to CBC, the company wants to eliminate the workers' morning break and instead pay them for an extra 10 minutes at lunch.

Members of Marine Workers Local 1 include metal fabricators, electricians and other labourers working on the multi-billion federal contract for new offshore patrol vessels and warships.

Along with that federal money, the Irvings received $304 million in provincial funding (including a $260-million forgivable “loan”) to modernize its operations and a special tax break from HRM city council because of all the high-paying jobs it was expected to create.

Aside from issues with its collective agreement, the union has also criticized Irving’s continual practice of hiring overseas workers for its Halifax shipyard.

Pending any delays, the Shipyard expects to finish its first ship sometime next year.

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