No strike, no lockout agreements mean labour stability
The provincial government took a major step forward in the Muskrat Falls development Monday, issuing three “special project orders” (SPOs) to ensure labour stability during construction.
Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall said the orders will also help insure that Innu workers get top priority when it comes to work on the $7.7-billion hydroelectric project.
A special project order essentially imposes a no-strike, no-lockout undertaking on the labour and employers of a megaproject, which ensures a stable labour environment for the lifetime of the project.
“You pay a premium to get that certainty, but hopefully you get the project done without a strike,” Marshall said.
The three orders govern the construction of the Muskrat Falls dam and hydroelectric generating station, the land clearing for the Muskrat Falls reservoir and the construction of the Labrador-island transmission link. A fourth order will likely come later this year for the Maritime Link that will connect Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.
Up until this point in the prov-ince’s history there have only ever been five megaprojects that required SPOs — Voisey’s Bay, Long Harbour, Terra Nova, Hibernia offshore, and the Hibernia construction.
Last spring, the government dramatically overhauled the legislation to allow for exactly this sort of situation. Before the amendments in 2012, only one SPO could be underway at any given time, and they could only take place within a limited geographic area.
Marshall said recently he had a meeting with officials from the Innu Nation who are concerned about the number of their members who have been employed on the Muskrat Falls project. So far, 61 people have been hired; the Innu had a target of 200.
Marshall said as the SPOs come into force, that should help the situation.
“That will outline the priority for the hiring
of qualified Lab-rador Innu and qualified residents of Labrador,” he said. “As long as they're qualified, then priority goes to Labrador Innu.”