Kiewit looking at options for Marystown

Steve Bartlett sbartlett@thetelegram.com
Published on June 23, 2011
Fears over past exposure to chemicals at the Marystown shipyard continue to raise concerns for members of the Marystown Shipyard Family Alliance. — Photo by The Southern Gazette

A spokesman for Kiewit Infrastructure says the company has no plans to pull out of the Marystown shipyard.

“We’re continuing to look at all the options to see if there’s more work in Marystown, and that’s all we can say as far as a comment on future projects,” Bob Kula said Wednesday.

Concerns about the shipyard’s future surfaced Tuesday after the Canadian Auto Workers/Marine Workers Federation (CAW/MWF) said all unionized workers had been given layoff notices and there were no indications the company is pursuing future work.

Kula said the layoffs were handed out because a project — the second provincial ferry built at the yard recently — was concluding. Between 35 and 40 workers are affected.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale didn’t see the dismissals coming.

She told a Telegram editorial board the move was unexpected given the considerable work taking place in the province.

“We have a lot of things going on here at the moment between Hebron, Long Harbour, we’re gearing up for Muskrat Falls — I mean there’s lots of opportunity in the province, plus our own ferries and so on, so it is surprising.”

See ‘DUNDERDALE’S’, Page A2

 Dunderdale also said the province has been negotiating with Kiewit on building a third ferry, and has worked closely with the company in recent years on addressing infrastructure needs for lucrative federal contracts.

“Nowhere in those discussions did they ever indicate to us they had issues around capacity in terms of their bidding and so on.”

This is the second Kiewit announcement in recent months that’s raised concerns. In April, the company took itself out of the running to become one of two shipbuilding centres of excellence, part of a $35-billion overhaul of Canadian maritime infrastructure. At the time, the company said it was too busy with other projects across the country, including jobs at Bull Arm and Long Harbour.

In the wake of Tuesday’s news, the province is trying to find out what’s going on with Kiewit. The premier said they’ve asked the company some questions.

“I have no idea what the answers are going to be, or how quickly they are going to be forthcoming with them,” Dunderdale said. “Kiewit is a private company and certainly don’t take instruction from us.”

Government’s approach wasn’t speedy enough for Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones, who suggested Dunderdale immediately ask Kiewit officials for a briefing.

The Liberal leader also said the government ministers have a history of not being on top of their files.

“When Kiewit withdrew from bidding on the $35-billion federal shipbuilding contract, Kathy Dunderdale and her ministers were the last to know,” Jones said in a release, “even though Dunderdale herself is from the Burin Peninsula and her Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman represents the district where the yard is located. Now we have Kiewit laying-off all its staff at the yard and Dunderdale’s government is in the dark again.”

Jones also said the premier should provide an update on negotiations with Kiewit about the third ferry.

“The government has already allocated money for this ferry to be built,” she said. “Why hasn’t the deal been concluded and the work already started at the yard?”

Meanwhile, CAW/MWF local president Wayne Butler said the membership will meet late Thursday afternoon.

“I’m going to fill them in on the discussions were having with the company, and after that, I probably might have a few more comments for the media.”

The local represents some 350 workers.

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve