Protester Quintin Russell holds a sign while waiting to meet with Nalcor officials.
A group of men and women who say they are fed up with hiring practices at the Muskrat Falls worksite, took to the Trans-Labrador Highway to show their frustration.
Around 20 protesters slowed traffic along the south coast turnoff on the road beginning at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Vehicles travelling to and from the Muskrat Falls worksite were halted for roughly two hours as the protesters paced along the road.
The protesters say contractors at Muskrat Falls are not following the hiring protocol, which is supposed to give Labradorians priority for jobs at the site. Most of them say they have submitted resumes for a job, but never got a call back.
“I’ve been trying to get a job since (the project started),” says Quintin Russell, a certified mechanic from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. “I went through all the protocol. … I tried calling companies. I tried joining the labourers’ union. … I got every course you need under the sun to get over there.
“You get a couple of comments on Facebook and this is what it escalates to. It just shows you the frustration people have right now.”
Larry Pottle of Happy Valley-Goose Bay spearheaded the protest by organizing it through social media. Pottle says he got tired of hearing stories of Labradorians being left out of the jobs being created by the megaproject.
“I saw a lot of comments on Facebook about the jobs at Muskrat and how they’re not getting a chance to be hired there,” says Pottle. “I got up one morning and I just got sick of it.”
“We got a lot of labour people here who are trying to get jobs and said they’ve been applying for over a month and they’re not getting no answers … and everyone’s getting sick of it.”
Brandon Lethbridge of Happy Valley-Goose Bay had worked at Muskrat Falls for several months in 2013. But, after getting laid off in December, he says, he never got any more work at the site.
“I’m in the labourers’ union. … I put in my resume with Astaldi just after I got laid off and I’m still here waiting for a call,” says Lethbridge.
“The thing is, people are coming from abroad, such places as the island (Newfoundland) and wherever else they’re getting them from. And it’s not right. Why should local people have to wait for jobs for everyone else is coming in, right?”
The protesters left the scene shortly after 8 a.m., not long after RCMP officers began escorting vehicles through the protest line.
Immediately afterwards, the group went to the Nalcor office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where officials for the energy company agreed to meet with them.
According to one protester, representatives from the contractor Astaldi were also present.
The officials met with the protesters four at a time in their office, while the other demonstrators remained outside, across the street with their signs.
While they were waiting for turn, the protesters discussed the possibility of more demonstrations in the near future.
Several people from the Innu community of Sheshatshiu, who weren’t at the protest earlier in the morning, showed up outside the Nalcor office to lend their support.
“We support the protest. It’s not just non-Innu people looking for work,” says Luke Rich of Sheshatshiu. “We got young people in the community who’s afraid to come out and start doing this stuff. But they’re young and they want to work.”
Rich says that he and many others from Sheshatshiu would be willing to be a part of future demonstrations with people from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.