The judges for this year’s Employers of Distinction awards couldn’t decide on a single winner in the large-employer category, so they settled on two.
Construction company H.J. O’Connell and hotel and real-estate giant Fortis Properties were both named winners in the large-employer category of the annual award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council, while non-profit residential care and support service organization Key Assets was the winner in the small-employer category.
Employers’ council executive director Richard Alexander said it was difficult for the judges to whittle down the shortlist of 18 finalists for the awards.
“The organizations that actually received the award here today are extremely deserving of it,” he said.
“There’s a lot of conversation about labour relations and employers, and employers are often made out to be the bad guy, but a lot of these applications had strong support from their unions, strong support from their employees. There are some very good places to work in Newfoundland and Labrador, and our winners today exemplify the best of what the employer community has to offer.”
H.J. O’Connell was cited for its employee donation program, which dedicates $25,000 a year in five allotments to charities suggested by employees, and its strong labour relations.
“In operation for more than 45 years, this employer has never had a strike,” Alexander told the audience at the awards luncheon at the Sheraton.
Accepting the award for H.J. O’Connell, Len Knox, vice-president of major projects, said the company was honoured by the award, and noted the excavation work it’s doing for the Muskrat Falls project.
“If there’s anybody here from Nalcor, we are ahead of schedule, we are on budget,” he said, to laughter and applause from the audience. “In fact, our guys are hellbent on beating schedules. So the job is going very well.”
Fortis’s internal communications focus and workplace culture were factors in its win. CEO and president Nora Duke said it was an honour to see Fortis shortlisted with so many quality employers.
“The list was daunting when I looked at the competition,” she said. “I think there’s some really neat employer initiatives going on here in the province, and I think we should all be very proud.”
Small-employer winner Key Assets values the opinions of all employees, who are given the freedom to use their own skills and make their own decisions at work.
“Our company founders often will say that our job as employers is to take care of our employees so that they can take care of our young people, and that’s what we try to do,” said executive director Heather Modlin.