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St. John's businessman Paul Antle, owner of Newdock, has signed an agreement in principle with Peter Kiewit and Sons to purchase the old shipyard portion of its operations in Marystown. - Southern Gazette file photo
The Town of Marystown has a tentative agreement in place to purchase the former Marystown Shipyard, contingent on Marbase Marystown Inc. reaching a collective agreement with Marine Workers Federation-Unifor Local 20. Marbase also has a conditional 20-year deal in place to lease the facility from the town. - SaltWire Network file photo

Hanging in the balance

MARYSTOWN, N.L.

Members of Marine Workers Federation-Unifor Local 20 (MWF-Unifor Local 20) will hold another vote on a collective agreement with Marbase Marystown Inc. this week.

After voting to reject the initial offer from Marbase on Nov. 16, MWF-Unifor Local 20 and the company resumed negotiations, union president Rick Farrell told The Southern Gazette Wednesday morning, Nov. 21.

Farrell said talks were progressing and declined any further comment related to the negotiations.

On Wednesday afternoon, the union announced via its Facebook page, a vote will be held on Thursday and Friday.

Marbase, a partnership between Newfoundland businessman Paul Antle and Amar Group AS, a Norwegian company, has reached a tentative agreement with the Town of Marystown to lease the former Marystown Shipyard.

“Without a collective agreement, we are not going to buy a shipyard ..." - Sam Synard 

The town also has a conditional deal in place to purchase the shipyard footprint from Peter Kiewit Sons.

Both agreements, however, hinge on Marbase and MWF-Unifor Local 20 striking up a contract first.

The urgency of the situation was conveyed during Marystown council’s meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20.

“Without a collective agreement, we are not going to buy a shipyard, and so we’re back to that stage of negotiations again almost,” Mayor Sam Synard said during a lengthy discussion about the facility.

“We done our part. We’ve spent six months trying to buy the shipyard, all in good faith.”

Marbase is planning to use the facility as a service hub for the aquaculture industry.

“I can envision 200 people working at the shipyard this time next year, but unless we get a collective agreement there’s nobody going to be working at the shipyard this time next year, that’s the reality of it all,” Synard said.

The mayor suggested time is a factor in the negotiations between Marbase and the union, and inferred the deal between the town and Kiewit would likely fall by the wayside if a contract isn’t reached within the next week or so.

“We’re not trying to change people’s opinions here, we’re just telling the brutal, honest facts – without that agreement being in place, there will not be any work in the shipyard going forward for the next decade, or maybe ever,” Synard said.

A municipality acquiring a large facility like the former Marystown Shipyard is not commonplace, and people in the community are curious about the details surrounding the sale.

During the meeting, Synard said the town remains bound by a confidentiality agreement from discussing the specifics for now but would provide them to residents at a later date. He did say he felt the town was in a good position to buy the facility and had mitigated all its risks.

In addition to voting in favour of a motion to buy the shipyard from Kiewit, three other conditional motions related to the sale and leasing of the facility were also approved.

The town has agreed to enter into a 20-year lease agreement with Marbase Marystown Inc. to occupy the shipyard, and also approved a 10-year tax agreement with the company at an annual levy of $200,000.

A 10-year tax agreement has also been agreed upon with Kiewit for its fabrication facility at Cow Head, reducing its annual fee by $50,000, to $230,000, based on the removal of the shipyard footprint.

“We’re up $150,000 for the benefit of the taxpayers,” Synard noted.

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