YOU JUST CAN’T TRUST THE BOSS. Irving Shipyard workers in Halifax learned that lesson again January 25 when they checked their pay stubs. It turned out the mighty Irving corporation simply decided to stop making pension contributions on overtime pay.
Worker reaction to the move was swift and effective: about 150 shipyard workers walked off the job in protest just after noon on January 25. They demanded the company return to making contributions on overtime. It took the company less than an hour to agree to reinstate the pension contributions.
Irving maintained the workers had no cause for complaint. The corporation pointed out the workers RRSP payments on overtime were part of a stand alone agreement that expired at the end of 2017. They said the workers should not have been surprised by the end to the contributions.
The workers were more than surprised. They saw the company action as an act of bad faith.
Irving took the action in the middle of ongoing negotiations for a new contract.
It was a stupid thing for the company to do, made worse by when they did it. The union bargaining committee noted: “The committee strongly disagrees with Irving taking this step at a time when we are in conciliation with the province of N.S. and the company cannot change the terms and conditions of employment.”
“This is another disappointing tactic by the company to upset our members and cause a possible workplace dispute.”
The statement also included the warning: “If Irving wants to see more demonstrations of our solidarity, Unifor MWF Local 1 is happy to do that and it will be fully supported by our national union.”
Kevin McCoy, President of Halifax Shipyard, immediately met with the workers who walked out. In the end the company agreed to continue to match RRSP contributions on overtime pay until negotiations for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement are concluded. This assurance was enough to send the workers back to work.
Bargaining for a new contract began in November. The company broke off the talks after just four days. They have asked the province to appoint a conciliator.
The union represents approximately 800 workers of various trades. In early December, they voted overwhelmingly to give their bargaining committee a strike mandate. Their contract with Irving expired December 31.
Irving needs the workers to fulfill a $60 billion contract to build 15 ships for the Canadian navy, over the next 20 year years.
The two sides were scheduled to go back to the bargaining table on January 29.