A number of issues to be addressed, says Union rep
Before 8 a.m. a group of St. Anthony Hydro workers finished up their demonstration and went back on the job.
© Adam Randell photo
Hydro workers protesting in St. Anthony this morning.
The workers were protesting the plan to remove a general maintenance worker position from the area (carpentry). The position provides service for the entire Northern Peninsula and South Coast of Labrador.
Jabez Lane, business manager for IBEW, Local 1615, said once the position is eliminated the plan is to contract out the work.
“We know there’s lots of work here for this guy,” Lane said. “There’s enough work for him to have an assistant.”
During the time of the protest, the worker filling the position was working in Labrador.
“Our big concern is that this will start a snowball effect,” Lane said. “This job shouldn’t be removed from the Northern Peninsula.”
Travel is another concern says Lane.
“Work, Life, Balance,” read one of the protest signs.
Lane said the union wants to see the workers, living close to home, to be able to return home when the day’s work is done.
Unfortunately, he said, it don’t always work that way.
In Labrador, for example, he said Mary’s Harbour workers, working in Port Hope Simpson, some 50 kilometres away, get put up in a hotel, and receive a living allowance, but they’d rather be home with their families.
“When you live just down the road and you’ve got to stay in a hotel instead of getting home…Is it cheaper to pay an hour of overtime, or pay for a hotel room and living allowance? Obviously the overtime is cheaper. We should be able to get these workers back to their homes, if that’s what they want to do.”
Lane said employees are being asked to take on multi-trade positions.
As an example, Lane mentioned line workers doubling as heavy equipment operators.
“In 2002 they eliminated the driver ground workers, who operates the heavy equipment hand-in-hand with the line workers,” he said. “There is seasonal work, but for the rest of the year the linemen have to operate it themselves.”
While employees receive training certification before taking on these roles, he said the experience in operation is just not there.
Last winter, for example, a severe stormed knocked out the power in the St. Lunaire-Griquet area for a couple of days.
Lane said the driver ground workers had been laid off for the season and linemen had to use the heavy equipment themselves and as a result a transformer wound up getting dropped.
Off the Northern Peninsula, he said a linesman had a highway accident in the heavy equipment he was driving less than a month ago.
“They may be certified to do this work, but the experience is just not there,” he said.
“We are trying to make (Hydro) aware of these issues,” Lane said. “And we want to see some changes take place.”
How long the workers will keep up the demonstrations has yet to be determined.
“Until we can get somewhere with this, it will be for the foreseeable future,” noted one worker.