To avoid air transport, local workers to be used for more Muskrat Falls tasks

The union representing some of the workers at the Muskrat Falls site says it will begin to use local hires to avoid the flying in and out of workers to the remote work site.

The Hotel & Restaurant Workers Local 779, which represents 400 members including housekeepers, security, janitorial staff and cooks, said building trades affiliates have agreed to use local workers when possible, and that they will, too. Local 779 is a member union of TradesNL.

“We are currently working to find solutions that align with their efforts and practices,” union president Barb Woolridge said in a news release Friday.

The news comes amid criticism from federal and local politicians who say local workers are available and would limit the ability of COVID-19 coming to the work site.

MP Yvonne Jones slammed the hotel and restaurant union earlier this week for not choosing Labrador workers for the Muskrat Falls site. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Liberal MP Yvonne Jones took to Facebook on Monday to criticize the union, which she described as refusing to cooperate. At the time, Jones said the union “stated they will send the workers they want as per [their] collective agreement to work in Labrador even though we are in a pandemic.”

Jones said she and Nalcor Energy urged the union to reconsider their “reckless and disrespectful approach.”

Woolridge was not available for an interview on Friday, but a union spokesperson commented on her behalf.

The spokesperson said Local 779 is taking the issue very seriously, adding that compliance with best practices is paramount and that the union is on board with compliance measures.

“We are all doing our best to manage the many unknowns,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CBC News Friday evening. 

“In light of these challenging times, criticizing the union or the workers is not the way to go. Local Union 779 members are on site, working diligently and safely with other building trades members, many of whom are traveling in from outside Labrador, and all of whom are putting themselves at risk so the project remains functional.”

The union said its members, upon arrival in Goose Bay, are transported directly to the job site where they continue to adhere strictly to practices and procedures set by Nalcor and the Muskrat Falls Employers’ Association.

In the news release earlier on Friday Woolridge said the union is working toward a collaborative resolution.

“As we carve our path forward, Local 779 is committed to working with our industry partners and we will continue to steward the consistent level of trust and confidence in the senior leadership at Nalcor that our workforce has become accustomed to.”

Read more by CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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