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.