Bayplex workers say CBRM broke promise to save their jobs

A handful of unionized ice makers at the Bayplex sports complex in Glace Bay, N.S., have been told their jobs are gone, despite believing they had a promise that they would be "looked after."

Workers laid off ahead of months of renovations

Wayne Perry and Frank Wadden were laid off from their jobs at the Bayplex sports complex. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

A handful of unionized ice makers at the Bayplex sports complex in Glace Bay, N.S., have been told their jobs are gone, despite believing they had a promise that they would be "looked after."

The non-profit society that ran the Bayplex folded late last year in the face of mounting costs, unpaid utility bills and much-needed but expensive renovations.

The arena was taken over by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in November and was closed within weeks, with all the employees getting layoff notices.

CBRM, along with the provincial and federal governments, will spend millions to mitigate a mould problem and to upgrade the entire facility over the next 18 months.

Wayne Perry was an ice technician at the Bayplex for 21 years. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Wayne Perry, 64, was an ice technician, or Zamboni driver, at the Bayplex for 21 years. For 20 years before that, he was at the old Miners Forum.

"I was actually told that we were going to be looked after.… The mayor said it himself on TV, that we would be looked after. And I thought that as a union that we were going to be looked after," Perry said. 

"More or less, it's just a letdown to think that you're treated that way."

'Escorted out the door'

His co-worker Frank Wadden, 67, feels the same way.

"When this all began, we were told that we were all going to be taken care of," he said. "Well, so far, we've been taken care of and escorted out the door."

Wadden, too, believes Mayor Cecil Clarke made a televised promise in July 2017 to protect the unionized employees.

In actuality, though, Clarke's words were paraphrased in the TV report. He was reported to have said the three union workers would keep their jobs under CBRM's management.

Clarke's executive assistant, Christina Lamey, said Tuesday she has discussed the issue with the mayor.

"Based on what we know of this situation right now, the mayor wants to reiterate in regards to unionized employees from the former Bayplex the CBRM will honour any collective agreement, succession rights and human resources policies related to the individuals involved and their employment."

On Wednesday, Clarke himself offered another bit of hope, saying "there may be opportunities on a contract basis" for continued employment.

"I don't have the full details; staff have been asked to deal with that," the mayor said. "Our building officials worked in earnest to provide a continuation of employment. That was done out of sincere effort and that's what we expect to continue."

Frank Wadden was an employee at the Bayplex. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Both Wadden and Perry said Tuesday their union local ceased to exist as soon as they and a 41-year-old part-time co-worker were laid off.

It's not clear whether their former contract offered the men protection or provided them with the right to move into jobs at other facilities operated by CBRM.

Perry said his job "means everything" to him.

"I've done it my whole life, since I was a kid, pushing a plow around. It means a lot to me. It's my livelihood and I wasn't ready to retire. 

"I just feel that there's lots more work left in me and I'd like to keep going."

With files from Gary Mansfield