Northern Transportation Company Ltd. (NTCL) sent out seasonal layoff notices on Aug. 18.
The financially-troubled company says that’s nothing unusual but the union representing some of the workers is worried by one aspect of the notice – a request that employees remove personal items from the workplace.
“The correspondence NTCL sent to employees earlier today was a standard operational seasonal layoff notice,” said Mark Fleming, vice-president of NorTerra Inc., the parent company of NTCL, in an Aug. 18 e-mail response to questions from The Hub. “NTCL sends seasonal layoff notices every year, as we no longer require the use of the shipyard in Hay River once the water freezes.”
In response to further questions, Fleming said, “This round of layoffs represents only a small portion of NTCL’s workforce, and the impacted employees are not involved in Arctic resupply. The 2016 sailing season is currently underway and near completion.”
NTCL did not respond to questions about how many employees received layoffs notices.
Teresa Eschuk, regional vice-president with the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees in Edmonton, believes the layoffs affect about 20 workers.
Eschuk agreed it was a seasonal layoff but pointed out the worrying aspect of the notice.
“That will be their two-week notice, and they will be finished work on the second of September. This is not a permanent layoff. This is a seasonal layoff still,” she said. “But in the same memo they also have been told that they strongly were suggested that they remove all personal tools and equipment that they may have at the location as they can’t guarantee future access would be feasible.”
Eschuk said that is worrying because the union has been told by NTCL lawyers that there is no interest in buying NTCL as a whole.
“But there was interest in buying pieces, basically dismantling the company and selling it off piece by piece,” she said. “That’s the unusual part to a seasonal layoff because in the past I don’t believe they were asked to take their personal belongings, telling them they may not have future access to the building.”
Eschuk also said the seasonal layoffs seem to be early in the season, adding she would have expected them about the end of September.
NTCL announced on April 27 that it had initiated a process under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to facilitate restructuring and refinancing of its operations.