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Safety First

Picket at Airport Hotel Construction Site Finds Safety Infractions

by Miles Howe

Airport Hotel Picket
Airport Hotel Picket

A construction site next door to the Halifax International Airport was picketed yesterday by the Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenter, Millwrights and Allied Workers. Close to 100 supporters, including representatives from unions around the province and beyond, were in attendance for the noontime picket and barbecue.

The site in question, owned by Le Germain Hotel group, from Toronto, is slated to be developed into a 14-story hotel. Le Germain has irked the Carpenters' Union by using Marco Construction, a company well known for using non-unionized labour. Marco has subsequently chosen to use a contractor from Ontario, Longvalley Forming, who is now importing non-unionized labour from the fish-shaped province.

It would appear that the Carpenters' Union is only the first to be affected by the eastward shuffle of workers towards the airport hotel site. According to Cathy Pike, Representative/Organizer with the Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers, imported, non-unionized crews are now beginning to fill every available niche at the site.

“Not only is there a former contractor from Ontario that has brought his crew down,” says Pike, “but we've just been told that there's a drywall contractor from Quebec, and also the electrical contractor is coming down from Quebec. So what we're trying to do now is we've rallied up some of the other trades that are being affected by this.”

Attempts by the Carpenters to have a chat with the owner of Longvalley Forming have so far been fruitless, as have media attempts to contact Marco Construction. Reception at Marco Construction yesterday noted that no one would be available for comment on the matter until at least March 14th, when the appropriate persons return from vacation.

The practice of importing labour from outside of province is indeed a notion worth pondering. Pike notes that her sources report that Marco Construction is paying its employees as much, if not more, than carpenters' wages. Factor in the costs of return flights and housing subsidies for its employees, and the practice seems to make little economic sense.

Perhaps the answer lies in practices at the airport site that do not meet union safety standards. Yesterday, as the picketers wandered the breadth of the chain-link fence surrounding the job site, Pike and dozens of witnesses noticed safety infractions, including workers not being safely tied off, for which her union would not have stood.

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