Workers at Irving's Shipyard in Halifax have voted to ratify a deal that will see their salaries boosted by 24 per cent over the next five years, putting a deal in place in advance of the largest naval order in Canadian history.

Members voted 69 per cent in favour of the contract on Wednesday.

"I think it's a great thing that this first agreement is ratified," said Les Holloway, the Canadian Autoworkers Union's Atlantic director. "This was a tough agreement and I think the vote reflects that."

The deal, which affects 1,000 workers, is now in place in advance of the Halifax Shipyard beginning work on a $25-billion contract to build navy ships.

"This new collective agreement recognizes the extensive skills and experience of the men and women of Halifax Shipyard while providing the kind of stability that will allow us to focus as a team on completing our current projects as well as preparing for the naval programs to come," Ross Langley, vice-chairman of Irving Shipbuilding, said in a release.

"In the overall picture, I think the larger majority obviously supporting it was the message that we're turning a page," said Holloway.

Front-loaded raises


Les Holloway hopes the deal will attract new workers to the shipyard. (CBC)

The raises start off with an immediate 10 per cent boost, which Holloway called significant. He said it was essential to compete with salaries for trades workers in other parts of the country.

"To attract and retain good trades people, we have to have a wage that will attract them. So the 10 per cent represents that. It gets us into the $30-plus area," he said.

Holloway said an official signing of the document will happen soon.

The immediate 10 per cent pay increase includes a five per cent retroactive raise and a five per cent raise in the first year.

The workers will get 2.5 per cent raises in each of the next two years, plus three per cent in each of the three years after that. It all amounts to a 24 per cent raise by the end of the six-year contract.

It also comes on the heels of Tuesday's surprise announcement that Steve Durrell, the president of the company, has left his job.

Layoffs at Shelburne Shipyard

Meanwhile, the majority of workers at the Irving shipyard in Shelburne, N.S. have been laid off.

Irving has laid off 48 people since the beginning of November, leaving just 15 still working.

Irving spokeswoman Mary Keith said the layoffs are temporary until new contracts are found. She said the winter is a traditional time for ship repair so the company is optimistic new work is not far away.

The facility was re-opened in September 2011 after undergoing a $16 million refurbishment.