Nfld. & Labrador

Foreign crews replace 104 Canadians at Woodward Coastal Shipping, union says

The union representing workers for Woodward’s Coastal Shipping service say 104 seafarers are being handed layoff notices this holiday season and replaced by foreign workers.

The Sten Fjord changed from a Canadian crew to a foreign crew in Lewisporte Wednesday

The Nanny is said to be the only Woodward Coastal Shipping tanker to keep the Canadian Flag this winter. (Transportation Safety Board)

The union representing workers at Woodward's Coastal Shipping service says 104 seafarers are being handed layoff notices this holiday season and replaced with foreign crews.

"The company didn't want to talk about keeping Canadians, sadly," Patrice Caron of the Seafarers Union told the CBC on Wednesday. "We're going to keep [up] our fight."

The union said the vessels will be manned by 100 per cent foreign crews, said to be mostly Filipino, in an effort to save money.

Video shot in Lewisporte Wednesday shows foreign workers replacing Canadians aboard the the Sten Fjord.

Foreign crew at Lewisport pier replacing Canadians aboard Woodward vessel Sten Fjord 0:29

"Those crews are not as professional as the Canadians are," Caron said,

"And we know for a fact that the vessels are deteriorating each time they are gone with a foreign crew."

The union says one vessel will remain with a Canadian flag, while four other Woodward vessels are being replaced with Marshall Island flags, which allows them to use foreign crews.

In an earlier comment to CBC, the company said it could be as few as two boats using foreign crews.

Flags of convenience

"We are always concerned [about] flags of conveniences, they are the worst thing for the seafarers," Caron said, "The employer can do pretty much whatever they want to these seafarers."

The Woodward vessels carry fuel to the coast of Labrador and into Nunavut. It's believed they will be doing work in the Caribbean over the winter.

The union said Canadian crews will be back on the boats in May or June to work in Canadian waters once again.

The Marshall Island flag now flies aboard the Alsterstern, a Coastal Shipping Limited tanker. (Submitted)

"It's a sad situation right before Christmas … now everybody's on unemployment," Caron said,

"We hope the best for the crews, that's all we can say."

Coastal Shipping did not immediately respond to our phone calls.

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.