People who live near Mistaken Point on the southeast Avalon say locals are not being called for interviews to work at the newly designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mistaken Point was named a World Heritage Site last July for being home to the oldest-known evidence of Earth's first large, complex, multicellular life forms — a 565-million-year-old sea floor that holds a collection of fossils known as the Ediacaran biota.
Now, residents who live in Trepassey and other nearby communities are signing a petition in hopes the provincial government will do more to make sure locals are hired for positions at the site — which they say hasn't been happening.
"This petition was started through frustration, and to be honest this frustration started last spring," said Charlene Power of Trepassey, who launched the petition.
"This feels like a lack of commitment and is causing grave concerns for the community and the region."
Power said people who live in the area who were working at the site prior to its new designation aren't even being called for interviews, in some cases for jobs they already had when it was just an ecological reserve.
She said there are several locals with geology and science backgrounds who went into their fields because of their passion for Mistaken Point, who are now not even being considered.
"We have a young gentleman who worked as a student interpreter for two seasons at Mistaken Point and didn't receive an interview," she said. "We know there are local qualified people who were denied interviews."
Power said the rules around the UNESCO nomination process even states that locals should benefit from the site's development into a World Heritage Site, and one of those benefits is employment.
Getting government's attention
The Change.Org petition that Power started had 225 signatures by Thursday morning, and Power said she and others have been writing and calling government and haven't been getting a response.
"The mood is discouragement, disappointment and frustration. Many of us can't understand the lack of response from government," she said.
"We have worked too long and too hard to stand idly by and see locals not benefit."
In an interview Thursday morning, provincial tourism minister Christopher Mitchelmore said while his department is not responsible for overseeing hiring for the site, he could only say it's being done on a merit-based system.
He also said government would be willing to advertise those positions again if no suitable candidate could be found.