Man risks job during Muskrat Falls protest

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Believes not enough Labradorians being employed on site

John Penny spent three straight mornings staging a one-man protest against Muskrat Falls hiring practices. He continued protesting even after getting a job offer at the site.

Many Labradorians have protested against the Muskrats Fall projects since it was green-lighted more than a year ago. But John Penney of Happy Valley-Goose Bay may be the only person to stage a protest after receiving a job offer at the site.

According to the 61-year-old, he originally had a job as a carpenter at Muskrat Falls between August and November 2013, before getting laid off.

Immediately afterwards, he kept searching, and waiting, for other job opportunities at the site. But according to Penney, the phone call never came.

Things came to a head after Penney received word from a friend at Muskrat Falls that there were carpenters being brought into the site from the island portion of the province. Penney felt that he and other Labradorians should be first in line for jobs at Muskrat Falls.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back; when I was going around here, looking for work with my hands in my pockets…I heard there was six carpenters in from central Newfoundland,” says Penny.

“It didn’t make me feel very good, because on several occasions I was told I was first on the list.”

In fact, Nalcor’s own hiring policy states that Labradorians will have hiring priority, after members of the Innu Nation, followed by Newfoundlanders.

“For the generation portion of the project, qualified residents of Labrador will have priority, followed by residents of Newfoundland,” states Nalcor’s website.

Whether or not the contractors are following the hiring protocol has been a source of heated debate amongst Labradorians. Many feel that some qualified locals are being left out in the cold.

According to Nalcor’s calculations, as of November 2013, 40.3 per cent of people employed at Muskrats Falls were Labradorian, while 49.2 per cent came from Newfoundland. These numbers for Labrador are good compared to the original numbers from January 2013, when 30.2 per cent of employees were Labradorian.

Penney staged his one-man protest for three straight mornings between Saturday, Feb. 8 and Monday Feb. 10.

“It comes to a point in this where we have to stop sitting on our rear ends,” says Penney.

“There are too many people from outside coming in, while there are qualified people here to do the job.”

Penney stood out by the entrance to the worksite, at roughly 5:30 a.m. each morning, in order to catch the heavy Muskrat Falls traffic on the Trans Labrador Highway. He would stay until 6:30 a.m. braving the extremely cold weather.

“I guess I’m from the old school and I don’t mind cold a whole lot, except for my fingers,” says Penney.

In his hands Penney held two signs reading “NALCOR WHEN-R-U GOING TO REQUIRE CONTRACTS TO FOLLOW HIRING POLICY” and “HIRE LABRADOR RESIDENTS FOR JOBS IN MUSKRAT FALLS.”

The carpenter would approach some people in their vehicles to tell them why he was out protesting. According to Penny, he even stopped a bus with Muskrat Falls' employees to talk with them. The people he spoke to were generally polite.

“For the most part, they told me it was the proper thing,” says Penney.

On either Sunday or Saturday, Penney claims that he received a phone call offering him a job at Muskrat Falls. Penney isn’t sure if his protesting had anything to do with the offer, but it seemed like his mission was accomplished.

Nonetheless, Penney decided to continue his one-man demonstration on Monday, Feb. 10, even though he knew it could endanger his future employment.

“I was told it might lessen my chances (of employment),” says Penney.

“The protest wasn’t only for me. There’s a lot of people in Goose Bay in the same situation as I am.”

Penney was willing to do another protest on Tuesday, Feb. 11 as well. He got the word out on VOCM Open Line for other Labradorians to join him, but he heard no response.

“All to often we get a tendency to sit down in our living rooms and talk about things, but not take action,” says Penney.

Organizations: Trans Labrador Highway

Geographic location: MUSKRAT, Newfoundland, Goose Bay Happy Valley

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Recent comments

  • anthony
    February 14, 2014 - 15:50

    i live in HVGB. i have trying to get a job at Muskrat for over a year. Any time i call the union , they tell they have no openings. If i go to the astaldi office here, i am told there is no one there to see about a job, but i can drop off a resume. i have done that. but talking to people in town, (that work out there) i am told there are people coming in here for work (from outside) doing the same jobs that i (and others) are qualified for.. nothing but BS from astaldi people, nalcor, teamsters etc

  • anthony
    February 14, 2014 - 15:48

    i live in HVGB. i have trying to get a job at Muskrat for over a year. Any time i call the union , they tell they have no openings. If i go to the astaldi office here, i am told there is no one there to see about a job, but i can drop off a resume. i have done that. but talking to people in town, (that work out there) i am told there are people coming in here for work (from outside) doing the same jobs that i (and others) are qualified for.. nothing but BS from astaldi people, nalcor, teamsters etc

  • Rex Smith
    February 14, 2014 - 14:19

    Where the hell is our local town council on this, they just sent five of them to Ottawa for a conference at cost of $20,00.00 to try and save 25 jobs, and they cant fight for 100s of potential jobs? I guess their all Ok cause they all got government jobs there selves.

  • Ben
    February 13, 2014 - 17:56

    It's a union site. Fort mcmurray residents don't get first pick at jobs over Edmonton and Calgary. There locals are based in the province. Union members from Labrador will go first. Unions also work in a call list order so when laid off you dropped to the bottom of the list and the next on the list will go now. When there done they'll drop and you will move up. It's fair play. It's not fair if you go first every time. We are one province not two. As long as Newfie union members are getting in than don't bitch. When the travel cards are coming in and your home than you can complain. Besides how do we know this guys work ethic? If your a good worker they will keep you as long as they can that's fact. If your missing time or not pulling your weight you will be in the first round of layoffs. Simple as that.

  • Ben
    February 13, 2014 - 17:55

    It's a union site. Fort mcmurray residents don't get first pick at jobs over Edmonton and Calgary. There locals are based in the province. Union members from Labrador will go first. Unions also work in a call list order so when laid off you dropped to the bottom of the list and the next on the list will go now. When there done they'll drop and you will move up. It's fair play. It's not fair if you go first every time. We are one province not two. As long as Newfie union members are getting in than don't bitch. When the travel cards are coming in and your home than you can complain. Besides how do we know this guys work ethic? If your a good worker they will keep you as long as they can that's fact. If your missing time or not pulling your weight you will be in the first round of layoffs. Simple as that.

  • dan
    February 13, 2014 - 15:28

    Sorry Derek, Nalcor tried but only a handful of people up there with education past grade 8.

  • raymond godwin
    February 13, 2014 - 05:57

    You should be proud of yourself Bill .We need more people to protest these practises, its the ONLY way to get them to honour the deal they signed to hire local ,NOT JUST THEIR BUDDIES

  • Michael terriak
    February 12, 2014 - 19:37

    My question is this how many workers do they have on the Muskrat site from the north coast.This is a serious question that needs to be answered.

  • Michael terriak
    February 12, 2014 - 19:36

    My question is this how many workers do they have on the Muskrat site from the north coast.This is a serious question that needs to be answered.

  • Fred Poole
    February 12, 2014 - 17:19

    Makes me proud. Labradorians need to control our own destiny.

    • Larry pottle
      February 12, 2014 - 22:38

      Me to trying to get a call got all the experience for heavy equipment They got.so time to protest I guess I'll go over tomorrow enough is enough who in with me time to fight for our rights and if we don't they walk all over us like there doing now.

    • Duane Mitchell
      February 14, 2014 - 12:54

      The last time I spoke to someone from the Teamsters in St.Johns, he tried to tell me that ANYONE living in HVGB is A LABRADORIAN! I could've reached through the phone n grabbed him! Where's the support from the innu on this? As long as they got they're money there all happy!! Sad situation going on up here in HVGB, shut it all down I say!! Best thing that can happen! Drive everyone home out of it.