HALIFAX — Hundreds of unionized workers at the Halifax Shipyard have voted overwhelmingly to give their bargaining committee a strike mandate.
A statement from Unifor Local 1 says about 700 of the 800 employees in the union met Sunday to vote on concessions proposed by the company, with an overwhelming majority voting in favour of a strike.
“After a healthy discussion, a strike vote was held, which resulted in a decisively strong mandate for the committee at more than 99 per cent,” the union said in a statement.
“The bargaining team remains optimistic that the conciliator will be able to convince the employer that a confrontational and concessionary approach is not the best way to reach a tentative agreement.”
The membership includes everything from metal fabricators to electricians, and their contract expires at the end of this month.
The shipyard has been working on the multibillion-dollar federal contract to build the Arctic Offshore Patrol vessels, which was awarded in 2010.
Talks started early last month, with Irving requesting a conciliator after about four days at the table _ something the union said was a disappointment to the membership.
Sean Lewis, a spokesman for Irving Shipbuilding, said in an email Monday that the company offered two proposals before requesting the conciliator but that it hopes to reach a negotiated settlement.
“It became clear that the involvement of a trained labour conciliator is necessary for discussions to continue,” he said. “We are focused on the upcoming meetings with the conciliator.”
Unifor has said Irving proposed 33 pages of concessions in the collective agreement that included getting rid of sick days and the “removal of all break periods and most safety provisions.”
The previous Conservative government launched the national shipbuilding strategy in 2010, budgeting $35 billion to rebuild the navy and coast guard fleets while also creating a sustainable shipbuilding industry on both the east and west coasts.