Halifax Shipyard Union Threatens Strike
Unifor Local 1, the union for shipyard workers at Irving Shipbuilding's Halifax Shipyard, announced Monday that its members voted overwhelmingly in favor of going on strike if its bargaining team can’t reach an acceptable contract with management. 99 percent of those who cast ballots supported the possibility of a labor action.
The current labor agreement expires on December 31, and the shipbuilder has requested the assistance of a labor "conciliator," a mediator who will help it to work out a deal with the union. Unifor says that the shipyard's demands for concessions – which include reductions in sick days and break periods – are not acceptable. Irving said in a statement that it has proposed to combine the workers' morning break with their lunch period and would pay for the additional time at lunch.
"We are disappointed that we were unable to move bargaining forward through mutual discussions. We are hopeful that an outside party can assist in restarting negotiations, as we believe a negotiated agreement is the best option for the Halifax Shipyard and our shipbuilders," Irving Shipbuilding said in a statement.
Halifax has a $1.8 billion (USD) contract with the Canadian government for a series of Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships and an additional $11-24 billion contract for 15 Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) frigates – Canada's largest defense contract ever. The work on the patrol ships has been delayed, but the last in the series should be completed by 2022. The timeline for the CSCs is not yet finalized, nor is the design, and Irving has warned that a delay could lead to a gap between the end of the patrol ship contract and the construction of the first CSC. Any interruption in workflow could lead to layoffs, potentially raising the cost of the CSC hulls and pushing back the delivery timeline.