Union leadership declares end to strike

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Wildcat runs for fifth day near Long Harbour

The president of the Resource Development Trades Council, Gus Doyle, was not available to speak with The Telegram about the ongoing Long Harbour wildcat strike Monday.

However, shortly after 9 p.m., general council with the carpenter’s union, Robert Dornan, phoned in a statement from Doyle.  

“The labour dispute at Long Harbour is over. The operating engineers have removed their protest effective this evening,” Dornan read.

“Gus Doyle, president of the (Resource Development Trades Council), would like to thank the operating engineers for bringing their issues forward. The (council) will be meeting tomorrow with its members to discuss how these issues can best be addressed in the future.

“Workers are being asked to report tomorrow morning for their regularly scheduled shifts.”

Hundreds of skilled trades workers from the Vale construction site at Long Harbour remained off the job Monday, continuing their illegal job action for a fifth day.

The wildcat strike went on despite both a court order and a directive to shut down the job action — issued by Doyle and other union leaders Sunday.

On Monday, lawyers for Vale were in Supreme Court in St. John’s, seeking the prosecution of anyone violating a court order previously issued against the protest activities.

“We are concerned about what we’re hearing, about a lot of intimidation that’s going on. People are receiving emails, text messages, threatening phone calls, etcetera and that’s obviously of considerable concern to us,” Vale spokesman Bob Carter said.

About 1,000 workers were at the Long Harbour site to start the week.

 

The number of returned workers was less than half of the number scheduled for work.

 

A tale of two trucks

Of the rest, the majority gathered in a gravelled clearing area off Route 202, just around the corner from the Trans-Canada Highway off-ramp at Chapel Arm.

Their vehicles lined the roadway — one of two access routes to the Vale worksite.

In trying to explain why workers were continuing the illegal strike, electrician Kevin Slaney made reference to a television commercial for Ally Bank.

In the ad, a grown man in a suit offers a young boy a red toy truck. After the boy plays with the truck for a few seconds, the grown man takes it away and gives the boy a piece of paper with a drawing of a truck.

“That was a limited time offer only,” the man in the ad says. “It’s right here in the fine print.”

Slaney said dealings at the Long Harbour worksite have had a similar feeling for him and other workers without law degrees, with changes in scheduling or allowances after workers sign on with subcontractors.

He said all trades would be back on site today, if they felt their contracts would be honoured as they understood them.

For others, unresolved grievances were the main issue.

Tom Murphy with the operating engineers said he filed a grievance two years ago.

“I’m in there operating a concrete plant and I have no foreman,” he told The Telegram. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

Murphy said he was told by the business manager at his union last December a resolution would be coming in a month or two, but the issue is still outstanding.

He estimated his work at the site will be completed between December of this year and March 2013 — right about when the project as a whole is scheduled to be finished.

 

Unions not talking Monday

One worker claimed more than 150 individual grievances remain “on the table” and unresolved — something he attributed to a lack of arbitrators in the province.

The Telegram attempted to confirm the number with union leaders. Calls made to the carpenters’ union Local 579; ironworkers, Local 764; labourers, Local 1208 and operating engineers, Local 904 received no response as of deadline.

Carter acknowledged there were likely unresolved grievances, considering the number of workers, companies and unions involved in the construction project.

“Regardless of the number, there are processes set out in the collective agreement to manage any grievance logged either by the employer or the employee with the various unions,” he said.

Ironworker David Spurrell said he felt there had been a snowballing of unresolved grievances since the start of the project, leading to the current situation.

“It was like a boil growing on your face,” Spurrell said. “Eventually it has to pop.”

Crane operator Fabian Smith claimed union leadership was not pushing to resolve grievances filed.

“There’s no confidence left in the (Resource Development Trades Council),” he said. “Those guys gotta go.”

Asked midday Monday if he might return to work the following day, labourer Kevin Manning’s answer came immediately.

“I don’t cross a picket line,” he said.

 

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Resource Development Trades Council, The Telegram, Supreme Court Trans-Canada Highway Ally Bank

Geographic location: Long Harbour, Chapel Arm

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Recent comments

  • Duffy
    July 17, 2012 - 18:11

    Big Jobs by Big Companies better go somewhere else to do business. Newfoundland Union Contracts - no work stoppage agreements - non-strike agremenrs all mean nothing. Want the work on time and in budget without problems go elsewhere ASAP!

  • Max
    July 17, 2012 - 17:33

    In response to the comment posted by Darrin, I would point out that Kiewett (not sure of this spelling), is a Company, not a a Union or affiliate. The inference is that the Union turned down 10 years work for 325 to 350 men, this is clearly not the case. (Kiewett) the Company decided they could not handle this contract, which I believe was being put forth by the Canadian Government in an attempt to shore up the Canadian Shipbuilding industry. Darrin is correct that the strike and Vale's failure to act on the arbitration decisions are two separate matters, my point was that all parties should be given the opportunity to respond through the Courts to foot dragging by the other on arbitration decisions , and the Courts would hopefully be just as quick to intervene on behalf of the aggrieved party as they are apparently prepared to do in the case of a perceived Wildcat Strike by the Unions. The Courts need to examine the causes of the Strike , and not be so quick to give a knee-jerk reaction. As I said in my original Post, I don't see that the Unionized workers had many options to bring attention to the way they were being treated. I think Darrin was out of line in suggesting that a lot of the workers were only interested in the partying and being away from family, one has to be careful in ascribing ulterior motives to a parties actions. I think Companies need to get past the notion that it is OK to offer Newfoundlanders less money for doing essentially the same work at home as elsewhere in the world. That this is a situation that has been promoted by our Provincial Government, makes it all the more disturbing. This is the same Government that was looking at ways to attract Newfoundland Trades workers home to work on these Mega Projects. Clearly promoting them as cheaper labor, is not the way to go, but then it clearly fits in with the Conservative Agenda as put forth by the Harper Federal Government. I think the Courts and the Provincial Government clearly owe these workers an apology.

  • Donna
    July 17, 2012 - 13:45

    All complaints came when everyone had to move away for work, that they wanted to be home working,... Now that the work is here, you still complain.. Can't you just be greatful for a job home.. If you don't like it, leave a go back to Alberta... No one is making you stay!! This is enough to make me throw up! Alot of these employees were out just because they were intimidated to go to work and now have lost these days pay... Get over it and be thankful you have a job!!

  • Ed. A.
    July 17, 2012 - 12:28

    i agree with max and brett that the courts are just flunkys for big corporations because they issue injunctions without even taking the time to investigate the circumstances of why the workers are on strike. the judges are always eager to believe every word the company lawyers speaks. you are certainly not adding any respect to the injustice system in this province. shame on all judges. by the way this has to be the most stupid validation system in the world.

  • Darin
    July 17, 2012 - 10:58

    You folks are making it really tough on NL. Just look at Marystown, they are finish. Irving apparrently offered Kiewett 10 yrs work for 325 to 350 men and they turned it down. After the Hebron Module there will be no more Kiewett in Marystown and therefore no Marystown. If you guys want the bigger money in Alberta then go there. Alot of you only want the partying and being away from your family anyway. As far as the court ruling in the company's favor, what does that have to do with arbitration cases. Last time I checked they are separate processes; unless somewhat wants to argue the legallity of a certain matter ruled on by an arbitrator. You will never get enough arbitrators for these guys because they would grieve the color of toilet paper. These company's are not going to put up with the BS and good for them. I hope they follow through on the guys on illegal strike and suspend or get rid of them. I would like to see how many of those guys that ran their mouths off on camera and left around the site in a couple weeks..........I would bet they will be gone.

  • Max
    July 17, 2012 - 09:16

    I would like to make it perfectly clear before I comment, that I am not a Unionized worker at Long Harbor, nor am I a unionized worker anywhere, I have been retired from the Workforce for sometime now. What strikes me as rather odd is the speed with which the Court came down on the side of Vale. In all my years working I was a Unionized worker for less than a month, the rest of my 30 plus years service, were spent in management. It does seem to me that the Courts were rather quick to deliver a decision in the Companies' favor, when some grievances have been outstanding for in excess of two years. It leads to the question of why its illegal to conduct a wildcat strike and not illegal for the Company to ignore arbitration decisions for over two years. Perhaps the union would be well advise to submit the arbitration decisions to the Court to see if they are willing to use their Power to ensure these decisions are acted upon promptly. I don't see that the Union had much choice but to conduct the Strike to draw attention to the situation. Vale has no more right to arbitrarily change an agreement than the Union does . In essence this contract has already been broken by the Companies actions, and it seems to me that a fair assessment of the Companies actions would indicate that the contract had already been broken, and thus this could not be considered a Wildcat Strike against a non-existant contract.

    • Brett
      July 17, 2012 - 12:03

      Ah but the crux is that the courts will bar the workers from breaking the contract until they can determine that Vale itself has broken the contract... It's easy to see when the union is in breach, but not when the company is... Gotta love the obfuscation.

  • Brett
    July 17, 2012 - 07:36

    What caught me as anissue that has notbeen written bout are thegrievances that were taken through the arbitration process, won by the workers and then appealed and appealed and 2 years out there is till no action on them. That is a huge issue, and showsbargaining in bad faith. If this is delayed long enough the issues become moot or much more difficult to get compensation. Does anyone recall the nafta rulings on lumber? The US appealed and appealed and kept losing then decided not to pay anyways. That's the taste I have in my mouth from listening to this dispute.

    • Brett
      July 17, 2012 - 11:59

      my apologies on the text - I was using a device with a virtual keyboard + the space bar didn't seem to activate every time I pressed it.