More than 1,100 workers at the Irving Shipyard have signed a 4.5-year agreement that will see wages rise 20% to 25% over that period. Shannon Sampson, president of the Unifor Marine Workers Local 1, said the agreement “provides stability” until the next phase of the military procurement begins — the building of 15 warships known as the Canadian Surface Combatant program. Sampson is an electrician by trade.  

Here are the details: 

  • The contract is retroactive to July 2022 and expires at the end of January 2027. 
  • The base hourly wage back to July 2022 will be in the range of $43 and will rise to $47 by July 2024. 
  • The new collective agreement was approved by just over half of the 1,100 eligible voters in Local 1. They include pipefitters, welders, metal fabricators, millwrights, joiners, electricians, and labourers.  
  • Maternity benefits have been expanded to reflect a growing number of women working at the shipyard. The employer will top up EI benefits for 15 weeks. 
  • Workers will be entitled to $1,500 a year of coverage (up from $300) for psychological counselling. 
  • The contract includes a cost-of-living allowance in its final year.  

“In addition to important economic improvements, this agreement will support the growth of the skilled workforce in the shipyard, an anchor for good union jobs in the Halifax region,” said Lana Payne, the national president of Unifor, in a news release announcing the ratification of the contract earlier this month. 

More workers to be hired next couple of years

Two ship hull under construction at a shipyard.
Construction of ships at Halifax Shipyard. Credit: Jennifer Henderson

Irving Shipbuilding is looking to hire 120 tradespeople immediately to complete work on the Arctic Offshore Patrol vessels. The cost of that procurement has almost doubled since the original estimate 10 years ago and is now $4.9 billion.  

National Defence and Public Services and Procurement Canada told the Ottawa Citizen that “reduced labour availability,” as well as COVID protocols and rising prices for transportation and parts, have all been factors in driving up costs.  

The new labour agreement was reached following the arrival last September of Dirk Lesko, the current president of Irving Shipbuilding who succeeded Kevin Mooney. Lesko previously ran the Bath Ironworks shipyard in Maine, a subsidiary of General Dynamics and one of the largest in the world. Irving expects to hire hundreds more workers once the warship portion of the National Shipbuilding Strategy begins in a couple of years. That procurement is expected to last for another decade. 

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

Leave a comment

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.