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Journal of Commerce - Western Canada's Construction Newspaper
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Laid off foreign pipefitters refuse other employment
A group of Irish temporary foreign workers (TFWs) hired by PCL as pipefitters at a Saskatchewan potash mine project were laid off shortly after arriving in the province, but refused the company's offer to find them alternative employment.
“There was a scheduling issue and the next step was not ready until next year,” said PCL spokesperson Mike Long.
“There was a five month gap when things finished up and the start of the next phase. So, we had to lay them off.”
According to Long, the 20 workers had been in Saskatchewan between six weeks and three months.
They received lay off notices from PCL subsidiary Monad Industrial Constructors Inc., a general contractor involved in the expansion of Agrium’s Vanscoy potash facility.
The engineering and construction of the expansion is being conducted by a joint venture between SNC Lavalin Inc. and PCL Industrial Management Inc.
“What we understand is it looks like the scope of the project was slightly delayed,” said Dennis Perrin, Prairie director with the Christian Labour Association of Canada.
“This is very unfortunate, but these types of things happen from time to time. The work will come back, but we are not certain of the exact date.”
Long said the Irish TFWs were hired to work on the project during a recruitment trip to the country in March.
“In response, we had a number of candidates and recruited a number of people to work on this project as skilled tradespeople,” he said.
“This specific situation deals with the pipefitters recruited for this project,” he said.
These pipefitters were performing wrap up work or civil construction on some buildings.
The next phase was to move on to some industrial work on the plant.
“In the meantime, prior to issuing the lay off notices, we had a meeting, which included the Saskatchewan government to see if they could transition to new jobs and have their work documents in order,” said Long.
“There is a strong demand for pipefitters elsewhere. They refused to do that and chose to reject our offer for help and assistance.”
The workers were offered different jobs in Regina.
Perrin said the workers may have decided to refuse the offer because the nature of the work was different from what they had been promised when they were recruited.
“What we don’t understand is why they did not pursue the other work they were offered,” said Perrin.
“There may have been some uncertainty attached to the work that was offered in terms of longevity or location. From our perspective, we have told them we are looking for alternative work, but it is their decision. We are doing everything we can to get them work.”
The 20 Irish workers were part of a group of 50 pipefitters, who were laid off.
Other Irish TFWs in different occupations have remained on the project.
Construction of the $1.5 billion project began earlier this year and completion is scheduled for the second half of 2014.
The plant currently processes about two million tonnes of potash per year.
The expansion will add an additional one million tonnes of capacity.
Saskatchewan employers have offered more than 280 positions to skilled workers as a result of a mission to Ireland in March 2012.
The Saskatchewan Construction Association (SCA) in partnership with the provincial government and 27 employers took part in recruitment fairs in Dublin and Cork.
There were six construction companies in the delegation and four of these were in the SCA booth.
The delegation, which included representatives of the Provincial Nominee Program was led by Premier Brad Wall.
The Saskatchewan government provided advice to employers and assistance to potential candidates.
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