Nova Scotia

Union official criticizes Halifax Shipyard after scaffolding collapse

A union official working at Irving Shipbuilding's Halifax Shipyard says workers at the site have concerns, after scaffolding fell in high winds yesterday.

Nova Scotia Department of Labour investigating after scaffolding collapsed as workers dismantled it

High winds caught plastic wrap around scaffolding at the Halifax Shipyard, causing the scaffolding to fall away from HMCS Toronto. (Irving Shipbuilding)

A union official working at Irving Shipbuilding's Halifax Shipyard says workers at the site have concerns, after scaffolding fell in high winds yesterday. 

According to the Nova Scotia Department of Labour, it happened while workers were dismantling the scaffolding.

High winds caught the plastic wrap that was around the scaffolding and blew it over, causing it to fall away from HMCS Toronto. 

In an email, a representative for Irving Shipbuilding said no one was injured and the navy frigate, which is undergoing a mid-life refit, was not damaged.  

Unifor/MWF Local 1 business agent Zibby Kwiatek told CBC News the scaffolding collapsed around lunchtime, when fewer workers were on the site.

"If it was during working hours, we would have casualties," Kwiatek said.

Irving and the Department of Labour are both investigating.

Kwiatek said workers at the site are concerned about more than just this safety issue. 

He said the 1,300 tradespeople his union represents are also concerned about Irving trying to find "efficiencies" at the worksite. He noted the company has told workers they are taking too many breaks to use the washroom. 

"There's unrest in the yard," said Kwiatek.

"There's been a lot of issues — this company is doing [it] legally but in a way, you know, that really angers everybody." 

Kwiatek, who has worked at the shipyard for 25 years as a welder, said he took a stand Tuesday at the shipyard to voice his concerns. He said his security badge was taken away and he is now unable to go back to work for the time being. 

In a statement, Irving told CBC, "A Unifor Business Agent was asked to leave HMCS Toronto for causing disruption onboard the vessel. Halifax Shipyard's top priority continues to be the safety and security of our employees."