Union starts 'Ships Stay Here' campaign to keep work in Halifax

Seven years after the successful “Ships Start Here” campaign won a huge piece of Canada's national shipbuilding contract, “Ships Stay Here” signs are popping up around the Halifax area.

Irving Shipbuilders are concerned some of that work might be sailing for Quebec and there’s an effort afoot to keep it anchored on the East Coast.

Union workers from Irving Shipyard are rallying to stop their jobs from moving to Quebec.

“It would be a very big impact for not just the shipyard, but all the spinoffs throughout the province, as well," said Adam Hersey – of Unifor Marine Workers Local 1.

Union officials say there's talk in Ottawa about moving some of the work on the navy's frigates from Irving to Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec.

It would mean about 300 jobs cut at the Halifax shipyard.

Today's uncertainty sits in marked contrast to last week's celebrations at the official naming ceremony of HMCS Harry DeWolf when company executive Jim Irving pronounced: “We believe the best shipbuilding team in the country -- 1900 and strong, and growing -- is right here.”

Irving Shipbuilding officials say they're hopeful the government will continue the work in Halifax.

In a statement to CTV News, company spokesman Sean Lewis wrote:

“We have performed this work for almost 10 years with a cost and schedule reputation to be proud of. Halifax shipyard and our shipbuilders have the experience, proven track record, and capacity to continue maintaining the Halifax-class frigates in their homeport.”

The Department of National Defence plans to have a decision made in the coming weeks.

If the remaining work is to be divided up between the shipyards, officials say it won't start until 2020.

“It makes no economic sense to move this work outside of the province,” said Hersey.“We neighbour the DND dockyard, we have a fantastic working relationship with the navy -- our prime customer.”

Unifor’s chief shop steward Ryan Lapointe said the campaign is designed to send the government a message.

“We need to keep our work here - keep the economy strong as it is in Nova Scotia now,” he said. “It's our work. At the end of the day it's our work and we don't want it going anywhere else.” 

The union will make a presentation to municipal council on Tuesday.

Until then, they're simply asking people to show their support, just like they did seven years ago.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Suzette Belliveau