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Irving Shipyard workers walk off the job after co-worker's suicide

Workers complain of ongoing bullying and harassment by management

by Robert Devet

Irving Shipyard workers walked off the job after a co-worker and friend commited suicide.  They believe harassment by management contributed directly to the tragic event. Photo Robert Devet
Irving Shipyard workers walked off the job after a co-worker and friend commited suicide. They believe harassment by management contributed directly to the tragic event. Photo Robert Devet
While many workers returned to the yard later in the morning, others decided to remain off the job for the remainder of the day to show respect for the friend they lost.	Photo Robert Devet
While many workers returned to the yard later in the morning, others decided to remain off the job for the remainder of the day to show respect for the friend they lost. Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK, HALIFAX - Three hundred Irving Shipyard employees walked off the job this morning after they found out that a long-time co-worker had committed suicide.

The workers believe that a 30-day unpaid suspension imposed by management directly contributed to the suicide. 

It is not clear what caused the suspension. The CBC reports that a trivial disagreement about the safety of a stage built by the worker triggered an ongoing series of threats by management. 

The co-worker, who had been employed at the Shipyard for 38 years and was in his sixties, reportedly was asked to sign a last chance agreement upon his return from the suspension on Wednesday.

A last chance agreement is a letter of understanding between the employer and the worker which severely limits a worker's rights the next time a conflict arises.

The Shipyard workers, who are deeply affected by the death of their friend and co-worker, are angry about an array of disciplinary actions taken against workers by Irving management. They feel that management's behaviour can only be described as bullying and harassment.

"Management thinks they are gods in there -- that is the problem. This was the last straw for our co-worker," one worker told Halifax Media Co-op contributor Judy Haiven later in the day.

Workers at the Shipyard gate also complained about frequent lay-offs by Irving.

Rick Rose, Unifor representative, told workers gathered at the Shipyard gate that the union would start discussions with management about the workers grievances and report back tomorrow morning.

Rose asked that workers return to work for the time being.

Some workers expressed scepticism about the outcome of these talks. While many returned to the yard, others decided to remain off the job for the remainder of the day out of respect for their deceased comrade.

"I am not a fan of last chance agreements," Rick Clarke, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, told the Halifax Media Co-op.

"To use it as another step in the discipline process is like double jeopardy. You're coming back after a 30-day suspension and they tell you that you are on pobation for the rest of your life," Clarke said.

Clarke also doesn't think it is an isolated incident.

"It's bullying, it's intimidation, that message was not just for that worker, they're trying to tighten the noose on that entire workforce," Clarke said.

 

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert

 


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Topics: Labour
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