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Strike threat on hold at Halifax shipyard building navy ships as talks resume

Last Updated Jun 15, 2018 at 4:40 pm EDT

HALIFAX – With just hours to go before a threatened strike, the union at the Halifax shipyard building the next generation of Royal Canadian Navy vessels has agreed to go back to the bargaining table.

Unifor had given 48-hour strike notice, with picket lines expected to go up Saturday morning.

However, the union issued a news release Friday afternoon saying negotiators would return to the bargaining table with Irving Shipbuilding on Monday.

Earlier this week, the union said a strong majority of 850 unionized employees at Irving’s Halifax Shipyard had rejected a tentative contract.

However, Adam Hersey, the union local’s business agent, says Irving told them it plans to address some of their members’ concerns.

“Irving has informed us they are prepared to make a good faith effort to address some of the concerns raised by our members so on this basis we will extend the strike deadline and return to the table,” said Hersey in an email.

The union says it will have no further comment until bargaining is concluded, while the company confirmed the talks but refused further comment “out of respect for the collective bargaining process.”

At a Thursday news conference, Chad Johnston, Unifor’s lead negotiator, had said tensions were high, and the issues were not just about economics.

He noted an increasing number of temporary foreign workers were being used, and the number of discipline cases had shot up in recent years.

Johnston said there were about 300 disciplinary occurrences in 2016, compared to 100 cases in 2014.

Kevin McCoy, president of Irving Shipbuilding, said in a statement Thursday that a tentative agreement rejected by the union membership was fair for the company and union.

The statement said the agreement would see a journeyperson shipbuilder’s hourly rate increase from $34.80 to $35.32, and included increased RRSP contributions and improved access to vacation time.