Halifax shipyard workers have voted to reject a tentative agreement with Irving Shipbuilding and have served a 48-hour strike notice.
The workers are building some of the Royal Canadian Navy’s new ships, and the vote comes after eight months of negotiations.
According to a news release sent out late Wednesday from Unifor Marine Workers Federation Local 1, members voted 75 per cent to reject the tentative agreement, which included increases of 1.5 per cent per year over the next four years.
The union points out, however, that the employer refused to move on providing any sick days for workers “despite the fact that managers at Irving Shipbuilding are entitled to paid sick leave.”
“This is not just about economics, it’s about respect for workers and fixing the workplace for members and they are clearly sending a strong message to Irving today,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in the news release.
The union, which represents about 800 shipyard workers, expects to start putting up picket lines on Saturday at 9 a.m.
Kevin McCoy, the president of Irving Shipbuilding, released a statement on Thursday afternoon.
“We believe the tentative collective agreement reached with the Unifor Local 1 bargaining committee is fair for the company, union and shipbuilders, and are disappointed in the result of the ratification vote,” he said.
“Given that both the Local and National members of the Union bargaining committee recommended that this tentative agreement should be accepted, in the days ahead we will keep the lines of communication open with the Union in the hope that they will reconsider their position.”
The statement goes on to say that the shipyard’s journeyperson shipbuilders earn $34.80 an hour, which is approximately $72,000 per year, not including benefits such as vacation, RRSP contributions or overtime.
“This is more than twice the average individual income in Halifax. With all benefits included, this equates to approximately $94,000 per year,” the statement reads.
McCoy goes on to say that the proposed tentative agreement would have increased the hourly rate to $35.32, which is about $73,450 per year.
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Canada’s first Arctic and offshore patrol ship, which is being built at the shipyard, is set to launch this fall.
The shipyard said it is planning to build up to six Arctic and offshore Patrol Ships and 15 Canadian Surface Combatants over the next 25 years, referring to the projects as “the backbone of the Royal Canadian Navy.”
The first three ships, Harry DeWolf, Margaret Brooke, and Max Bernays, are currently under construction at the shipyard.
A spokesperson from Office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement says government “respects, and has faith in, the collective bargaining process.”
“Irving and their workers are an important part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy and we value the work they do. We continue to monitor the situation closely,” Ashley Michnowski told Global News via email.
With a file from The Canadian Press
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