Irish welders sent home from Long Harbour

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Layoffs come, in part, as result of Canadian recruitment efforts: spokesman

A collection of welders brought in from Ireland to help complete Vale’s new processing plant at Long Harbour returned home this week after less than a month on the job.

An incentive program to trades workers at the Vale N.L. Long Harbour construction site appears to be paying off.  The company is also bringing temporary workers from Ireland to undertake welding duties. — Telegram file photo

The 26 workers were all sent home by their employer in Newfoundland and Labrador, KBAC Constructors. The company is a partnership of Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co., BMA Constructors — a Black & McDonald-Alberici joint venture — and G.J. Cahill and Company Ltd.

The Irish welders were recruited by KBAC under a federal permit for temporary foreign workers, after skilled trade unions were unable to supply welders with the same skills from either Newfoundland and Labrador or other parts of Canada.

Vale Newfoundland and Labra­dor spokesman Bob Carter said Friday the process to bring in the workers began before a new incentive program for all workers at the site was launched July 15, amounting to a $2-$10 per hour pay raise for trades workers.

That program was meant to slow worker turnover at the site as the construction project approached completion.

According to Carter, the action drew in new Canadian workers.

“So the combination of that, plus the completion of the scope that the contractor had allocated for these folks, was such that they found themselves in a situation where there were available re­sourc­es from Canada to complete the work program and the first labour to be let go would obviously be the temporary foreign workers.”

It shortened the stay of the Irish workers.

“There is to and fro in the construction industry on contractors bringing in and releasing labour as needed. And clearly, in this situation, where there are available resources within Canada to support our contractors’ needs for specialty welding, our priority is to Canadian employees first,” Carter said.

Questions put Friday afternoon to a KBAC spokesman based in Nebraska received no response as of press time.

Messages left with the Resource Development Trades Council, the body representing the 16 construction trade unions active in the province, were not returned as of press time.

Meanwhile, as previously reported, the provincial government has planned a recruitment mission to Ireland for Nov. 7-14. There will be room for 15 companies on the trip, although the list of companies to travel as part of the mission has not been finalized.

Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Shea says that mission is seeking new, permanent residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, as opposed to temporary foreign workers.

At Long Harbour, Carter said two categories of temporary foreign workers were tapped to bring the project through peak construction. The first was the welders. The second was a group of “three or four” crane operators.

There are also “upwards of 900” people with travel cards working on site from other parts of Canada.

Vale introduced its incentive program for workers to push for an Oct. 31 completion of the so-called Phase 1 project work — allowing for the start of the transition of the Long Harbour plant from construction to operations.

Carter said the company is on target to meet that deadline and, over the next six to seven weeks, contractors will finish up and large numbers of workers will start to be laid off.

On the other hand, startup work will begin. First nickel is expected in the first quarter of 2014.

Organizations: Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co., Black McDonald-Alberici, G.J. Cahill and Company Ltd.The Resource Development Trades Council

Geographic location: Long Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Canada.Vale Newfoundland Nebraska Ireland Vale

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Recent comments

  • Beatrice Seaward
    November 20, 2013 - 07:08

    I have been a recruiter for many years for one of North America's largest Construction company's in Mining, infrastructure, transportation and offshore services...what the NL Gov't have created has embarrassed this province and is causing us to look so stupid in the eyes of the world....I was contracted to hire 30 foreign workers because the company said that they couldn't find people in Canada to do the work...I asked them to give me 3 weeks and I will find what they need in Canada that are qualified with the type of welds that were required....they said that they have tried, however...inexperienced at recruitment, they jumped on the band wagon of this effort to recruite foreign, they sent people to Ireland to recruite, however out of 150 that they have tested, none were qualified to weld the required, thousands spent on material sent overseas along with manhours and to what...deliver nothing...It took me 2.5 weeks to get the 30 people they needed from out West (Alberta). Some of those people wanted to return to NL as they have been working out there for many years, but I first had to have them understand that this wasn't the boom and bust industry that has been created out west and therefore would not get the salary that they were accustomed to, but was a good wage for the island...they came...however, due to the unorganized company in terms of future schedule and requirements...they were tossed around and let go, then rehired...this is not a sound place for these workers right now...and the Union is only creating a mess with the implications that they can get them more, you have the Gov't stating that there is a shortage of workers, however there isn' have the Company's tossing lives around with no regard to the welders lives and decisions they made to join them...and then the UNION that has always and will always create a Boom and Bust industry because they play one against the other for personal' s not for the statement is, Do we need Foreign workers? Maybe at times, but not offer them the wages that they are not willing to pay their own people..Have those company's that are bidding for work provide proof that they have the manpower prior to being awarded...I think that whoever is making the decision to award the work to them is not doing their job...and having one company with subsidiaries, pulling resources together for the sake of a bid and then rush to get bodies later is something that should be looked the people that have the other company's have their own work, so in actual fact, the subsidiary that is bidding, should already have their people available...I can go on and on, but the answer is simple....STICK TO THE your homework before you bid and stop playing the boom and bust game as well as the playing with people's lives as that is where you problems the eyes of the mess with them, you loose respect and word gets around in this industry...

    • G
      July 28, 2015 - 11:12

      Well said........ my son is a pipefitter and not only can't he get into the union since being out of school for six years, but he was only able to get two/three months work in Long Harbour. It's absolutely ridiculous.

  • T
    September 22, 2013 - 09:37

    A good decision by a conscientious company but unfortunately our government is completely out touch with the people and could care less! Have they even heard about education? perhaps some of the thousands of unemployed Newfoundlander could learn to weld. I am willing to become one where do I sign up? Oh yea Ireland.....better get my ticket!

    • Beatrice Seaward
      July 17, 2014 - 12:07

      No, not a good decision by a concious company...ill prepared and lack of experience taking on a monster project....great, that they received the work, but should have hired someone with more experience in managing large projects at the helm...As for the Gov''s really not their responsibility to ensure the province has enough workers...they put the programs out there, but it really has alot to do with the attitude of the generations feeling like they are entitled to these jobs..when they are not, they have to educate themselves and apply like the rest...if you are educated, then yes, you should be given the first right to positions on the island should you qualify...if not, don't expect companies to spoon feed you. For the unemployed...there are programs there, assistance to get them...however you have to be willing to put the work in...and if not, then there are labour jobs as well...but, like most sometimes have to leave the island...teach the kids that this sometimes is a necessity...if not, and you wish to remain on the island...know that that without put yourself in a competitive market and no need to cry about it...get off your behind and get educated....For those who do...Koodo's to you.