Irving Shipbuilding and union fight over warehouse jobs

by Emily Atkins

Irving Shipbuilding and Unifor engaged in a war of words last week after the union issued a press release accusing Irving of outsourcing warehouse jobs to its own subsidiary.

Unifor said in its release that the decision to outsource 15 unionized warehousing jobs to its subsidiary Bayside Industries “is a shameful attack on unionized workers”.

“Unifor is saying enough is enough and has filed charges against the company at the labour board and we are asking the labour board to uphold the labour relations principle of common employer,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor’s National President.

Provincial labour board hearings began on June 28. If the union wins its case Irving Shipbuilding would not be able to outsource the work to itself, the union said.

No job losses

In a response, Irving Shipbuilding said that no members of the union have lost jobs or pay. “The decision to contract out the warehouse affects approximately 12 positions in a bargaining unit of 1100+ members, which is expected to grow to over 1700 members over the next several years. Year to date, over 180 Unifor-represented new employees have joined the shipbuilding team,” the company said in a statement.

Irving said that over the past decade it has used a total of seven warehouses in locations across the HalifaxDartmouth area, and only one employed Unifor members.

The company also said that inventory volume and space requirements needed for future work, including additional Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) vessels and the larger Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) ships it is building for the Royal Canadian navy, will more than double from what it is needed today. A new, much larger and purpose-built “one-stop” warehouse solution was required.

Warehousing since 1949

Unifor argued that outsourcing will push workers out of their fields and force them to retrain into different departments so the company can save $10 to $15 an hour per person.

Unifor Local MWF 1 – which represents 1,000 shipbuilders – and Irving reached a collective agreement in 2018, which acknowledges that warehousing work has been done by the local since 1949.

The union is asking Irving Shipbuilding to reconsider its decision and keep its loyal warehousing employees who have worked hard for many years.