Union leadership declares end to strike

Wildcat runs for fifth day near Long Harbour

Published on July 17, 2012

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