The president of Irving Shipbuilding says none of the hundreds of workers who walked off the job Thursday will be disciplined for their actions, although they will be docked a day's pay.
Hundreds of Irving workers took to the streets of downtown Halifax on Thursday to protest what some claim is bullying by managers at the shipyard. The emotional demonstration was sparked by the sudden death of an employee.
The union said the worker had just been suspended from his job, although the union is clear it is not linking the discipline to his death.
Company president Kevin McCoy said their complaints were investigated by the company, but they found no evidence of the allegations.
"Yesterday was a very tough day in the shipyard and in the shipyard family," McCoy said, referring to the death of the 58-year-old scaffolding builder.
"It was a horrific event. A very big shock to the entire shipyard."
McCoy said as emotions ran high, workers made incorrect statements to reporters.
"I want to set the record straight and say nothing surrounding the employment history and the recent history with Mr. MacKenzie involved bullying. We take that very, very seriously here," McCoy said.
McCoy said about six weeks ago, managers and the union made a presentation to the entire workforce about bullying and said they have zero tolerance.
"There's a fine line between the supervisor telling somebody to go back to work, I want you to do this and is that bullying?"
Management and union leaders at the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard met Friday following a massive labour disruption. McCoy called the meeting "very productive."
Safety a priority
Some of the workers told CBC News the man who died was suspended over a dispute over scaffolding. McCoy was firm as he described the company's high safety standards.
McCoy said scaffolding is inspected on a daily basis, and the issue with the man who died was if the daily inspection was done properly.
"He was suspended in the presence of union representatives after a thorough investigation of not only of this incident, but his complete work record."
McCoy repeated the company's sympathy for the man's family, and said Irving Shipbuilding had been in contact with his widow.
McCoy said the company is now trying to move forward, and make sure emotions don't reach a boiling point like they did on Thursday. He said they're focusing on building a positive work environment.
"The people who chose to leave yesterday obviously won't get paid for the day, but... night shift came in, they came back to work today, there's no discipline for them."
Cliff Pickrem, president of the local union representing shipyard workers, said all the workers returned to work on Friday.
“We have counsellors in today to deal with any of the employees’ issues that arose from their emotional state yesterday and the actions that the membership took,” he said.
Pickrem said they'll be working with management to discuss an alternative process to handle discipline.
Labour minister watching story
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Labour Minister Kelly Regan said she's still trying to get to the bottom of the walkout.
Regan said the bullying allegations are serious.
“We're always concerned whenever there's a safety issue. Whenever there's a workplace issue especially when it's one of our biggest employers in the province. At this point we're waiting to hear back from them,” she said.
Regan said she wants to talk to the workers before interceding.
Irving management and the union plan to meet again on Monday