Philip Croucher - Metro Halifax
© PHILIP CROUCHER - METRO HALIFAX
Workers at the Halifax Shipyard walked off the job on Thursday.
The president of Irving Shipbuilding is denying that workplace harassment played any role in the suicide of long-time shipyard employee Peter MacKenzie earlier this week.
“No aspect of our investigation around Mr. MacKenzie involved bullying. None whatsoever.” said Kevin McCoy.
Nearly 200 Irving employees walked off the job on Thursday when they learned of their co-worker’s death following what they described as months of bullying by management.
“He was singled out and harassed,” said a shipyard worker who worked with MacKenzie for 25 years but preferred not to be named.
“We’ve had enough and it’s as simple as that. … It boiled over.”
Nonetheless, McCoy said management received no reports of bullying involving MacKenzie, adding that he recognized emotions ran high on Thursday.
“We take very seriously any complaints of harassment,” he added. “There’s no place for that in our shipyard.”
MacKenzie had received a 30-day suspension due to what management described as issues to do with the daily safety inspections of his scaffolding.
Halifax police said they responded to a suicide call to a home in Eastern Passage at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday and found a 58-year-old man dead.
“I think we have taken a very measured approach,” said McCoy.
He would not say whether any prior disciplinary action had been taken against MacKenzie.
McCoy said Irving Shipbuilding has been cracking down over the past year ever since internal investigations uncovered reports of intimidation and threats in the shipyard.
Five of the seven Irving Shipbuilding employees who lost their jobs in the past year were let go due to workplace violence or threats of workplace violence.
Employees at Irving have complained that the company has become much harsher in the past year and a half since winning the national shipbuilding contract.
Management at Irving is currently in discussions with the union representing shipyard workers on how better to resolve conflicts.