Unifor leadership tour the expanding Halifax Shipyard

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A group standing in a row wearing hardhats outside at Halifax Shipyard

“This is a different shipyard than the one Unifor first knew”

After an early morning breakfast meeting with the leadership of MWF Local 1, National President Lana Payne, Atlantic Regional Director Jennifer Murray, and Unifor staff pulled into the parking lot of Irving Shipbuilding nestled on the shoreline of the Halifax Harbour.

“It looks different from even four years ago,” said Payne. “And I remember before the new module hall was here – this is a different shipyard than the one Unifor first knew.”

A group of Unifor Leadership and members from the Halifax Shipyard posing smiling with their fists raised.

Led by Shannon Sampson, President of MWF Local 1, the tour began inside HMCS Halifax, docked for scheduled repairs.

“There’s a lot of work to be done to the Halifax to keep her operational,” said Sampson. “We are hopeful that our re-established shipbuilding industry here in Canada will make it easier to keep a steady fleet of ships at the ready. Supporting the Royal Canadian Navy and the Coast Guard makes our work really meaningful for us.”

The group then walked through the massive main module hall, as long as four football fields. There, the cutting, moving, and welding of steel can be seen in progressive stages that slowly start to look like a ship. Near the end of the hall, three modules of the future HMCS Frédérick Rolette, the fifth Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS), are waiting to be assembled and rolled outside.

A group of seven standing in front of a stern module wearing hardhats at the Halifax Shipard

“The scale of this project and the skill of these workers is truly something to be seen,” said Jennifer Murray. “These shipbuilders should be proud of the beautiful ships they’re building.”

From there, the group walked the shining halls of HMCS William Hall that sits ready for sea trials next week.

“This experience took my breath away and I’m thankful to Shannon and the members of MWF Local 1 for inviting us here to see their work,” said Murray. 

Unifor plays an active role in supporting the growth of the Halifax Shipyard, which has been a welcome partnership.

“I talk to employers in all sectors about how Unifor and Irving Shipbuilding have collaborated to reach new communities and make good jobs more accessible to a more diverse range of people,” said Payne. “Through the early stages of supporting women enter the trades through Women Unlimited and then the subsequent cohorts of the Pathways to Shipbuilding program, we’ve been able to help this workforce reflect the diversity of Halifax and its surrounding communities.”

Lana and Jenn at posing with a member wearing hardhats smiling.

The membership of MWF Local 1 has nearly doubled since Unifor was formed in 2013, with hundreds more to be hired in the coming years.

“The union’s involvement has been crucial to this growth because the culture of safety and inclusion was integral at every step and never an after-thought,” said Payne. “Now, the Local has its first ever woman president, diversity and inclusion are respected, and the union is in constant conversation with management to address issues as they arise.

This is what progress looks like.”