By Ruth Davenport - Metro Halifax
HALIFAX - The president of the union representing hundreds of workers at the Halifax Shipyard says he’s hopeful the next round of layoffs will be the last for years to come.
© The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan
Workers look on from the bow of a ship as Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses the crowd at the Halifax Shipyard in Halifax on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012.
Irving announced Wednesday that it has awarded dozens of contracts related to the multimillion dollar renovations and upgrades needed to prepare the shipyard for work on the federal shipbuilding contract.
However, Irving’s vice-president of programs said that because of the renovations and a Coast Guard contract that’s winding down, some workers would have to be laid off in September.
“The midshore program is completing,” said Scott Jamieson. “When it completes, we need to demolish that facility to build a new modern shipyard…we have to reduce the size of our workforce.”
Jamieson didn’t want to estimate how many workers would be affected, but the president of CAW/MWF Local 1 said he wasn’t expecting it to be in the “hundreds.”
“It’s just going to be the normal 30 here, 35 here,” said Cliff Pickrem. “Hopefully, this is going to be a little bigger cut, but it should be the last cut for us.”
Pickrem said layoffs are routine at any shipyard, because the workforce has to be adjusted to suit the workload.
Premier Darrell Dexter said at a news conference that the renovations and 25-year shipbuilding contract will end the “boom and bust” cycle of shipbuilding.
“If we didn’t have this shipbuilding contract…other shipbuilding contracts would still come to an end. People would still face the same kind of uncertainty,” he said. “Instead… they know there’s a long-term future for them.”
Irving co-CEO Jim Irving said the company is trying to mitigate the layoffs through potential commercial contracts and by encouraging renovation contractors to hire the shipyard employees.
“We can’t dictate to a contractor, but we’re going to encourage the contractors as much as possible,” he said. “Everyone needs skilled workers to be productive, and we’ve got good skilled workers.”
There are currently about 650 unionized workers at the shipyard. Jamieson said at least 300 to 400 are expected to be employed during the renovations.