Workers suspended after walking out on shift - Contractor investigating dispute involving 50 employees at Long Harbour

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Workers at the Long Harbour site

Construction on Vale’s new hydromet processing facility at Long Harbour continued Friday morning without any more workers unexpectedly walking off the job, according to the company.

About 50 workers were suspended after an incident during the Wednesday night shift, involving employees of contractor KBAC, according to Vale spokesman Bob Carter.

During the shift, he said, one of KBAC’s on-site managers found three of its workers were not wearing all of the required personal protective equipment.

Protective equipment includes hard hats, gloves, ear plugs and protective glasses.

While the manager was speaking with the three workers, “a number of other people” gathered around, Carter told The Telegram.

In short order, about 50 workers “all of a sudden come down with a sudden illness,” he said. They went to the on-site medical area and, before being cleared, walked out and left the worksite, he said.

The workers were suspended as a result, pending the outcome of an investigation into the events.

“That’s our normal protocol in dealing with issues like that,” Carter said.

In terms of timeline, the initial investigation could be concluded within days.

A request for an interview put to the union said to be representing all of the workers involved received no response as of press time.

It is not the first disruption at the worksite involving a dispute between skilled trades workers and their employers. In July 2012, work on the project came to a standstill during a wildcat strike involving hundreds of workers, many complaining the action was brought about by unresolved issues with management at the site.

There have also been for disputes at the site involving smaller numbers of workers. In November 2009, a work stoppage lasting hours rather than days, and involving about 50 people by one estimate, resulted in two employees being refused access to the worksite and fired.

Issues arising from that case were argued through to the Court of Appeal, with a decision reached Jan. 23, 2013.

It was ultimately found the two workers may not have been treated appropriately under their collective agreement, since they were fired by their on-site employer after Vale denied them access to the site in response to their walkout. They physically could not show up for work and were fired.

Workers can be dismissed from the site for unsanctioned labour action, but not as it was done in that specific case.

Geographic location: Long Harbour

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Recent comments

  • Mark Jackson
    March 08, 2013 - 17:36

    Why on earth do you people want to build the biggest polluting plant possible on your island? Did any of you ever stop to think about that? Are the jobs going to be worth the cancer and the eventual superfund cleanup site?

  • Coffee Please
    March 06, 2013 - 11:28

    I have lived in many of the provinces of Canada, and I have to say the anti union movement here in Newfoundland is utterly shameful. Ya unions have problems, but believe me, not as many as you find in an non unionized environment. Please people grow up and do some reading and educating before you continue to lash out blindly against unions.

  • Corporate Psycho
    March 05, 2013 - 20:28

    Lots of safety people onsite hiding in trailers I hear.

  • John
    March 05, 2013 - 17:12

    The issue was that the workers were being asked to do something unsafe, and then trying to punish them for not putting themselves in danger by complying. These are not operational buildings and there is no unsafe sound levels. It is a construction site with many moving dangers and the workers need to keep their heads on a swivel and their ears open in order to keep safe. To demand workers to wear ear plugs when there is no dangerous noise levels is insane, especially during a crane lift when communication is critical.

  • Kevin
    March 04, 2013 - 21:23

    Unions do not work for the workers they are only interested in union dues. I have worked for unionized companies in Ontario and I would eat grass before I work for another unionized company. I would not work for any company that did not reaspect my skills and hard work. If you think you are not being treated fairly by the company that you work for than quit and go get a job in Alberts or somewhere else in Canada; where they respect workers for their skills and hard work. Our labour laws do not protect the workers and need to be changed. Time for the crack heads in government to be voted out to pasture.

  • MM
    March 04, 2013 - 09:36

    I heard somebody on the talk shows on the radio saying that the workers had to take their safety equipment off so they could hear each other on a lift of heavy pipe and their supervisor reprimanded them.If the pipe had fallen and hurt them , they would sue the company for not enforcing the rules.No way for the company to win.They can't tell them to wear safety devices and they can't tell them not to.Gotta love what unions have done for us.

  • Dee
    March 04, 2013 - 06:53

    It would have been a different story if the employer did,nt provide safety equipment for these employees to wear.OHS would have been brought in pretty fast.These three employee,s should have been fired on the spot,and if the other fifty wanted to follow well let them there are a lot of people out there looking for work,I,m sure they can be replaced.I think the employer did the right thing by asking them to leave the work site.

  • W Bagg
    March 03, 2013 - 20:52

    not wearing ear plugs, no wonder they can't finish that job, suspensions for not wearing ear plugs.WOW

  • Hawthorne
    March 03, 2013 - 14:06

    What is the value of the legal document (Project Agreement) between the Union Group and the Employer Group? No strike, no lockout clauses. The collective extortion mindset of unions will go to any extrreme (legal or other) to intimidate those they want to threaten. The MOB mentatility prevails.

  • Harold
    March 03, 2013 - 09:12

    the employers state their case.. the employees state their case and somewhere in between lies the truth. it's totally amazing, in dealing with disputes, what open and transparent conversation can solve.

  • Fred from Brigus
    March 03, 2013 - 04:10

    Fire the whole dam lot and bring in foreign workers to get the job done in half the time and half the cost. Boys smarten up your act. You will never appreciate what you have until you loose it.

  • Frank
    March 02, 2013 - 18:13

    That's why I hate unions, they behave like sheep!

  • david
    March 02, 2013 - 10:44

    The inamtes demand to run the asylum. And they do. And that folks,is the state of this province's ever-shrinking private sector economy, in all its glory.

  • saelcove
    March 02, 2013 - 10:42

    Any wonder big business stays away

    • adamgrant
      March 04, 2013 - 16:11

      KBAC playing games with people's livelihoods .Shame on the Telegram for publishing such a story with out having the otherside of the story. This negative press damages public perception of unions and hurts the middle class. Disturbing to see that the Telegram has taken the side of a foreign owned corporation over its hard working residents.