Tradespeople take Bull Arm protest to Confederation Building

About 80 tradespeople made their presence known in the gallery of the legislature in St. John's on Wednesday, but left disappointed at what they witnessed.

Philip Tulk and his fellow workers have been protesting what they call a "one-sided contract" signed at Bull Arm which gives one union all the work on the offshore rig Transocean Barents.

They decided to bring their fight to the politicians, but instead got an inside look at the discussion happening over Gerry Byrne. For the second straight day, the politicians in the House of Assembly are debating what reprimand the cabinet minister should receive for comments he made about two other MHAs. 

"In our opinion, it was a waste of the public's time and money, just over a squabble in the House of Assembly over who said what or how they said it," Tulk said on the steps of Confederation Building.

"They should make up, apologize and get on, in the public's interest ... because it's not happening right now."

Tulk and other workers from different unions say they are being pushed out of work and are not getting the answers they're seeking. 

The Bull Arm fabrication site signed a lease agreement in October to bring Transocean Barents to the site for upgrade work.

Crown corporation Nalcor Energy, which owns the Bull Arm site, signed the agreement with DF Barnes.

The Transocean Barents semi-submersible offshore rig is getting ready to do further oil exploration work in Newfoundland's offshore oil industry in 2020.

Atlantic Canada Regional Council of Carpenters, Millwrights and Allied Workers (ACRC) Local 585 is doing the work. It also received the contract for work on the West Aquarius rig, Tulk said.

"The same contract has been signed again under our noses," he said. "We want answers and we're not getting any."

"We're hoping to put pressure on government."

Meeting planned for Thursday

Trades NL, meanwhile, issued a news release Wednesday calling on the provincial government for full disclosure on details of the lease it has signed with DF Barnes for the Bull Arm site.

John Leonard, president of Trades NL, which is comprised of 16 member unions, said government signed the without public consultation or disclosure of details. 

"This site belongs to the people of the province, and we have a right to know the details surrounding this agreement."

Like the protesters, the trades organization is also condemning DF Barnes for using a "wall-to-wall" labour agreement the one union group.

Alex Kennedy/CBC

Trades NL said the move is "nothing short of an attempt to break the building trades unions."

A meeting is scheduled to take place between Trades NL, Nalcor and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady on Thursday. 

DF Barnes issued a statement last week after a protest outside Bull Arm, standing by the work being done there. It emphasized workers are from the province.

"The West Aquarius thruster change out was a significant job and was successfully completed recently," DF Barnes said.

"This is good for those workers and the economy of the region. It bodes well for future work being done here, by a local workforce, instead of in foreign yards as has been the case in the past."

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