Sixty workers laid off at Site C

More layoffs are expected as specialized concrete work shuts down for the winter

Roller compacted concrete conveyor construction at the south bank in June 2017 | Submitted

Sixty Site C workers were laid off over the Thanksgiving weekend, and more layoffs are expected as specialized concrete work shuts down for the winter.

The layoffs are due to the completion of roller-compacted concrete (RCC) work, a Peace River Hydro Partners official said Wednesday.

"With this round of lay-offs, heavy equipment operators and labourers were the main job classifications impacted," spokeswoman Amber Harding said.

"Additional lay-offs are pending for later this month, also related to the completion of seasonal RCC work."

Roller-compacted concrete is commonly used in dam construction, and is different from traditional concrete mixes. 

In January, the project brought on its first temporary foreign worker to direct the specialized work, which includes the building concrete foundations for the dam's generating station and spillways, as well as a dam buttress, an 800-metre roller-compacted concrete buttress for seismic protection. It's one of the main components of the dam's main civil works construction, Peace River Hydro Partners says.

In July, the number of specialized RCC experts who were working under the federal immigration program had risen to six, including two superintendents, a construction manager, a civil engineer, an interface and planning manager, and a river diversion construction director.

Both union trades and salaried staff were impacted by the layoffs, Harding said, however, she couldn't confirm how many more layoffs were to come. None of the workers were working under the temporary foreign worker program, she said.

"This lay-off is not a termination and PRHP may provide future opportunities for these workers," Harding said.

"As with any construction project, the number of workers will vary month-to-month and reflect the nature and scope of the work being performed."

BC Hydro was aware the work would be put on hold for the winter as "the concrete requires a specific temperature range to set and cure," an official said.

The Christian Labour Association of Canada, which represents unionized Peace River Hydro Partners employees, confirmed 58 of its members were laid off. When workers are laid off, help is offered to update their resume or training, the union said.

"If they're not wanting to wait for a return call on this project, there are signatories we deal with who may be looking for employees" regional manager Josh Pastoor said.

"That's routine. We make sure if they need training that we line that up to get their tickets up to date."

The Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers Canada, which represents carpenters employed by Peace River Hydro Partners, confirmed two of its workers were laid off. The union offers training for its members as well as a hiring board with work opportunities, representative Ron Kneller said.

Around 97 per cent of CMAW workers on Site C are from B.C., with between 35 to 45 per cent from the B.C. Peace, he said.

There were 2,549 workers employed on Site C in July. Labour statistics for August are expected to be released in early November.