Nalcor’s vice-president for the Lower Churchill Project, Gilbert Bennett, admitted Wednesday there have been instances when outside workers have been brought to the Muskrat Falls site when qualified Labradorians were available.
But he also says that in each case, the outside worker was removed.
“We found a few cases where that has happened and we’ve had people removed from the site,” Bennett told The Labradorian.
“The protocol is clear. It’s in the benefits agreement. It’s in the special project order. So, we’re all in a position where we understand what the process is.”
The issue of Muskrat Falls hiring practices is back in the spotlight, following two recent protests.
Nalcor’s hiring policy for the Muskrat Falls project states Labradorians will have hiring priority, after members of the Innu Nation, followed by Newfoundlanders.
John Penny of Happy Valley-Goose Bay staged a one-man demonstration between Feb. 8-10. Penny, a carpenter, claimed he was being passed over jobs on site in favour of Newfoundlanders.
On Tuesday, 20 Labrador men and women blocked a portion of the Trans-Labrador Highway, preventing many workers from entering Muskrat Falls. Most of them said their job applications were being ignored, despite being qualified in their trade.
After a three-hour protest, the group met with Nalcor officials at the Nalcor office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The Nalcor representatives spoke with protesters four at a time to discuss their concerns over hiring practices.
Bennett said the situation could have been resolved without a protest. He said Nalcor has staff in Happy Valley-Goose Bay who can help those who have trouble with the hiring process.
“From my perspective, the 20 or 30 individuals who have concerns didn’t need to have a protest.
“They could have come into our office on Burnwood Drive. They could have sat down and spoken to our people and we’d be in a position to help them,” said Bennett.
“I think anyone who needs help with understanding the process … those are legitimate questions and that’s why we have the support team we do in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to try to address those.”
Bennett said Nalcor is committed to the hiring protocol in place and said 40 per cent of the workers onsite were Labradorians, as of the latest benefits report.
“You think about travel and accommodations. There’s a common-sense reason why you would want to have a local workforce,” he said.
Bennett also believes the energy company could improve its communication, so that everyone knows what kind of mechanisms are in place for employment.
“We’re glad that they did come out because that gives us an opportunity to make contact and to help gain a common understanding,” said Bennett.
“The root cause of the issue here is we don’t have good enough communication.”