Nfld. & Labrador

Laid off Irish workers uncommon scenario, ambassador says

The Irish ambassador to Canada is weighing in on the 26 Irish welders who were unexpectedly laid off at Long Harbour nickel processing plant.

Raymond Bassett says complaints from Irish workers are uncommon

Raymond Bassett says it is important to keep a strong relationship between Ireland and Canada. (CBC)

The Irish ambassador to Canada is weighing in on the 26 Irish welders who were unexpectedly laid off at Long Harbour nickel processing plant. 

KBAC Constructors, a subcontractor for VALE, sent the workers home last weekend giving no reason for their dismissal.

The workers said they were brought in to work for 12 weeks on the site, but were given layoff slips after just three weeks on the job.

Ambassador Raymond Bassett said the Irish people want to experience life in Newfoundland and Labrador, and in turn local companies need skilled trades workers to fill employment gaps.

"The fact that people have such good experience in Newfoundland and Labrador has been a big selling point for companies who want to recruit Irish workers," Bassett said.

But 26 workers have headed back to Ireland with warnings for others not to cross the Atlantic for jobs.

"If you're expected to work and leave jobs for 10 to 14 weeks, and you get four, there's something radically wrong, very radically wrong," Martin Masterson told CBC News at St. John's International Airport.

Despite those welders' bad experience, Bassett said most of the response he has gotten from other Irish workers across Canada is good.

"There will be difficulties and there will be cases where they don't work out, but the overall program is working very, very successfully."

Bassett said a similar case happened in Saskatchewan, where a lot of Irish workers migrate for work. 

"People are taking a very, very big challenge when they move across the Atlantic and the individual employee should be very careful about what they sign, but I also think there is a — if not totally a legal obligation — there is a moral obligation," Bassett told CBC News. 

"If you take people across the Atlantic, you do your best to make sure what was promised was delivered."

The ambassador said he is not worried about the impact the incident may have on the relationship between the two countries. However, Bassett wants any problems to be settled away.

"Obviously these are regrettable occurrences, but I don't think it affects us unduly. In any one of those cases, there can be individual hardship. If there are difficulties, if there are glitches — we'd like to iron them out."

Bassett would not comment on the specific case of the workers in this province, because the Irish Embassy was not notified of the incident.

He is encouraging the men to come forward with their complaints. 

The ambassador said he has been in touch with the Newfoundland and Labrador government about the situation and its possible impact on the future recruitment of Irish workers. 

KBAC constructors has refused to comment on why the workers were sent home early. 


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