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Muskrat Falls stop-work order worries workers

The Muskrat Falls construction site in August 2017.
The Muskrat Falls construction site in August 2017. - Ashley Fitzpatrick

Cost and schedule will not be affected by Astaldi’s ouster, Nalcor says

After being dismissed from the Muskrat Falls worksite, one worker says he’s been left in limbo, not sure what happens next.

About 500 workers were ordered by Nalcor Energy on Thursday to head home after it was established that Astaldi Canada Inc. could no longer pay its workers. Astaldi’s parent company filed for creditor protection in Italy at the end of September.

Jeremy Michelin showed up for work as usual on Friday, but it wasn’t long before workers were told to pack up their things and leave the site, he says.

He says the first news of the stop-work order came from the media, not from management on site.

“We all knew it was bad, but most of us figured Astaldi might be able to pull out of it. We were told bills were being paid off,” Michelin wrote in an email.

“It came as a surprise to hear from CBC that Astaldi was being kicked off site and not hear anything from our management.”

Michelin says, as he understands it, a skeleton crew of Astaldi workers will remain on site, but management hasn’t told them much.

“We were told they don’t know anything. As of yet we aren’t laid off, but if we aren’t contacted within a week, we will receive our ROE,” he said.

Trades NL executive director Darin King says it’s time for Premier Dwight Ball to step in and make sure workers are protected in an uncertain time.

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Astaldi ordered off Muskrat Falls project site

King wrote a letter to the premier on Friday asking for his assistance.

“As premier of the Province, we are requesting Mr. Ball’s intervention into this development to ensure our workers are treated fairly and receive their wages, health, welfare and pension benefits,” King wrote.

“Our contract is with the Crown corporation Nalcor, through the Muskrat Falls Employers’ Association Inc., so we are looking for Premier Ball to intercede and assist in resolving this situation.”

For his part, Ball says Nalcor is monitoring the situation, and the government will step in where needed.

“The stop-work order will not have any impact on the ongoing work activities of the other contractors and workers on site and work will continue as planned,” Ball said in a statement.

“My government’s priorities are with the workers affected and we will continue to work with (Trades NL) to ensure workers’ rights are protected.”

Nalcor Energy repeated on Friday that a contingency plan is being worked on in case Astaldi cannot complete its work, but the Crown corporation declined to share details of that plan as of deadline.

Nalcor says it will complete work on the Muskrat Falls project within the current schedule and budget.

“Nalcor has financial insurance and securities in place that provide us with the necessary financial protections should Astaldi not be able to finish their work,” read a statement issued Friday afternoon.

“We remain committed to have first power from the project in 2019 with full power in 2020.”

The Innu Nation met with Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall on Friday to discuss any potential effects on the New Dawn agreement, signed between the Innu Nation, Nalcor and the province.

Grand Chief Gregory Rich says 50 Innu workers will remain on site for the time being.

In another news release, the Progressive Conservatives said the situation is “troubling,” and called into question the Liberal government’s handling of the Muskrat Falls project.

PC Leader Ches Crosbie called on the premier to reopen the House of Assembly to discuss the matter publicly.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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