Former Pennecon Employees at Vale Long Harbour Owed $2.3 million in Severance
June 22, 2022
ST. JOHN’S, NL – Over 150 skilled trades workers from the Vale nickel processing plant in Long Harbour are owed a combined $2.3 million in severance pay from former employer Pennecon Maintenance Services. The employees were laid off with less than two weeks’ notice last month when Vale retendered the contract to new contractor, DF Barnes. FFAW-Unifor is calling on Pennecon to pay the employees’ owed severance per the Labour Standards Act and as promised in the written layoff notice issued by Pennecon last month.
“We understand that Pennecon and Vale are arguing behind the scenes about who should pay the severance bill owed to these 150 individuals. Regardless of whose burden it may be – these employees need to be paid and the large corporations can work out the details after the fact,” says FFAW-Unifor Industrial Director Greg Pretty.
Vale’s contract flip saw 150 people lose good-paying, skilled employment overnight, and those who received new offers were faced with choosing between going back to work for significantly less pay and benefits with new contractor DF Barnes, or not going back to work at all. Many did not receive offers to return to work, and without their owed severance pay they now face the challenge of making ends meet.
FFAW-Unifor, which represented the skilled trades workers employed through Pennecon, had an established collective agreement in place until the year 2025. The underhanded, money-saving move by Vale eliminated this collective agreement between Pennecon and FFAW-Unifor as well as the established seniority list and hard-earned union-rights like paid leave and modest wage increases in future years.
“Vale’s contract flip is a hit against the wages and benefits of the middle class. The corporation’s goal here is to make the Long Harbour workforce resemble a vulnerable, transient construction-like labour camp rather than provide long-term sustainable and stable jobs that a steady-state production like Vale should have,” says Pretty. “These people devoted up to seven years of their lives to building up Vale’s Long Harbour operation. They established lives and families in the region and in the blink of an eye Vale tells them that, not only they are disposable, but their labour is also now suddenly worth significantly less than before.”
FFAW-Unifor has filed a grievance requesting that Pennecon pay the owed severance pay per the Labour Standards Act. Should the pay not be received in a timely manner, the Union will pursue all legal avenues available to ensure employees receive what they are entitled to.
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