Company hiring for Tufts Cove oil spill cleanup

It could be at least another week before Nova Scotia Power knows how long it will take to clear last week’s oil spill at Tufts Cove.

Five thousand litres of oil leaked into Halifax harbour Aug. 2 and contractors are in the process of hiring more people to help with the cleanup.

According to Nova Scotia Power, there are about 65 people at the site using vacuum trucks and absorbent materials. Sixteen of those people are short-term labourers working to clean the shoreline.

Manual labour positions

MFR Oil Response is one of the companies contracted by Nova Scotia Power to do the cleanup work. Mark Ring, the company’s president, said he’s looking to hire more people to do manual labour at the site.

“We have main oil responders that are fully trained and constantly trained, constantly trained in operating all the equipment — the boats and skimmers and so on,” said Ring.

“Once you get into a larger spill, we don’t want to utilize these individuals for smaller tasks: moving absorbents, cleanup, just little stuff that needs to be done around the job site to keep things safe.”

Rocks on the shoreline near Tufts Cove on Halifax Harbour. (Robert Short/CBC)

Training, safety gear provided

Ring said those hired will receive job training, safety training and will be provided with safety gear.

“After they’re into their roles, then we bring in more bodies to fill in gaps and we keep going until we have the right number to make everything flow smoothly,” he said.

No special skills are needed, but those applying must be at least 16 and be physically able and immediately available to do the work.

The pay works out to be $16.50 per hour and workers will be needed five days a week for the next one to three months.

Ring said he was able to pull together a crew immediately after the spill was reported, but is now tapping into those on employment insurance looking for work, the local Syrian refugee population and the general public.

“My wife and I and four families in the neighbourhood created a family of five where we fundraised and brought in a family ourselves so we’ve been involved with the Syrian refugee for about two years now,” said Ring.

“So I know there are a lot of individuals that are around who are studying to learn English as a second language and get involved in the communities and they would like to get out to do some work, so we reached out to that group.”

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Halifax Saudi student ordered to leave Canada by the end of August

A Saudi university student living in Halifax says he’s devastated his country has ordered him to leave the city he loves and abandon his friends and the degree he’s been pursuing.

He’s one of 835 Saudi students enrolled in Nova Scotia’s post-secondary institutions — and among 8,300 in Canada —who have been told to withdraw from their studies by the government and leave following a foreign policy spat between Ottawa and Riyadh.

The young man studying in Halifax has until Aug. 31 to leave, according to a letter he received from the Saudi Arabian government.

“I have a lot of mixed feelings; I’m a bit stressed and confused,” said the student whose identity CBC agreed to withhold at his request. Given the geopolitical climate in Saudi Arabia, the student believes he could lose his scholarship or face other repercussions for speaking to the media.

Preparing to leave

The official letter he received states in Arabic that “all students or trainees on funded scholarships must leave Canada by the end of this month.”

The letter also urged students to buy a plane ticket as soon as possible.

“We never thought that this would actually escalate that far,” the Halifax student said. But it’s become more real, he said, since receiving the letter. He said he’s still getting information from the embassy about the logistics of transferring to a new school.

He’s been told by the embassy to make decision about which country he would like to move to in order to finish his degree. The student said he’s been told to provide the embassy with his university transcripts so that a report can be prepared about his academic accomplishments while in Canada.

“It took me a lot of effort and time to get to this point so it is unfortunate to leave everything behind,” he said. “I hope it won’t all be for nothing once I transfer.”

The impact of losing Saudi students

Saudi Arabians make up the second largest source for international students in Atlantic Canada.

“These students bring a lot of value to our campuses,” said Peter Halpin, executive director for the Association of Atlantic Universities. “It’s not just financial — it’s cultural and the impact they’ve had on the internalization of our campuses and communities.”

But Nova Scotia can expect to feel a financial blow from the exodus. Nova Scotia universities are an industry — and they’re the third largest export revenue-generating sector in the province, according to Halpin.  

“Most of that money is driven by our ability in attracting international students,” he said.

‘It’s a real shame’

While the effect would be significant if Saudi Arabian students are withdrawn, Halpin says it’s important not to overreact at this stage.

“I know that our colleagues at Universities Canada are doing a deeper analysis of the implications and I know that they are in conversation with our federal government,” he said.

Students are still hoping that relations can be repaired.

The Saudi student had made friends from all over the world, saying that he has “built” his life here.

“It’s a real shame that I have to leave now and I don’t know if I’m going to see my friends again in the future, but I’ll definitely stay in touch with them.”

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Halifax Transit translates booklet with schedule changes into 8 languages

Halifax Transit is translating an eight-page booklet that outlines changes to its upcoming bus schedule into eight different languages for the community of Clayton Park.

In the coming days, the area’s large immigrant population will be able to read the guide in Arabic, Farsi, French, Korean, Mandarin, Nepali, Russian and Yoruba.

Patricia Hughes, manager of planning and scheduling for Halifax Transit, said it is an opportunity to pilot something new in a diverse community where a variety of languages are spoken.

“This is the first time that we’ve done this,” Hughes said.

Halifax Transit also held four sessions with the community with translators present to explain the upcoming changes, which take effect Aug. 20.

Patricia Hughes is Halifax Transit’s manager of planning and scheduling. (Submitted by Patricia Hughes)

Ayo Aladejebi spent three to four days translating the brochure into Yoruba, one of the main languages in West Africa. Aladejebi moved from Nigeria to Canada in 1993 and then to Nova Scotia in 1998. He is a senior advisor with Halifax’s African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office.

“The direct translation was the easiest part,” he said. “The most challenging part was going back and sort of refining what I have written because with the Yoruba language you have the different accents.”

According to the 2016 census, 50 people in Halifax reported Yoruba as their mother tongue; 15 reported Yoruba as the language most spoken at home; and 215 had knowledge of the Yoruba language.

Aladejebi said it’s essential that newcomers who use transit to have access to this information in their original language.

“Halifax is rapidly changing,” he said. “Now we have folks that are from various parts of the world and people speaking different languages, so an attempt to translate a document such as this into multiple languages, to me, is a commitment of the municipality to that reality — to say that we’re actually reflecting the community that we serve.”

All eight versions will be available on Halifax Transit’s website, at the Keshen Goodman Public Library in Clayton Park, and at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia.

A page from the Nepali version of the Halifax Transit booklet. (Submitted by Halifax Transit)

A page from the Russian version of the Halifax Transit booklet. (Submitted by Halifax Transit)

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Strike by contract drivers disrupts some Canada Post parcel service

Canada Post says mail delivery in parts of the Maritimes is being disrupted by striking contract drivers.

About 20 workers who deliver parcels for Nor-Pel, a Quebec-based company contracted by Canada Post, launched an information picket Wednesday morning at the Sydney mail sorting plant on Upper Prince Street.

The employees, who are members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, say they have not been able to negotiate a collective agreement since 2016, when Nor-Pel got the contract.

Darrell Hill, one of the drivers, said he started 16 years ago at $10 an hour. He now makes $14.30 an hour and has no benefits.

Darrell Hill, a delivery driver for 16 years, says every time Canada Post changes contractors, he loses more benefits. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The union says it is willing to negotiate. It’s asking for $18 an hour and a basic medical package for the workers.

Hill said every time Canada Post changes contractors, he loses more benefits.

“We’re sending them a strong message that we’re not fooling around with them,” he said. “We want something done and we want something done now.

“That’s the whole idea of us being here, to get a contract, or get a livable wage and a medical package, or whatever they got.”

Looking for a livable wage, basic benefits

Hill said drivers used to get paid vacation and sick days, food and clothing allowances and medical coverage.

Now, they get nothing, he said.

“I’m paying for everything out of my own pocket and last year I spent almost $3,000 in expenses with my family,” Hill said. 

“It’s a lot of money every month to come out of your pocket. And I think this day and age, everybody should have some kind of medical package, and we went after them when they first got here to give us some kind of a medical package and they kept giving us excuse after excuse after excuse, so we ended up with nothing.”

Mike Palecek, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, says Canada Post is “contractor flipping,” which means the union has to regularly start over in collective bargaining. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Mike Palecek, national president of CUPW, was on the picket line on Wednesday, and said the problem is Canada Post is “contract flipping.”

“That allows one company to drop a contract and another one to pick it up, and then it’s like starting all over again with collective bargaining,” he said.

The latest contractor, Nor-Pel, won’t even talk to the union, Palecek said.

Company blames union for bargaining impasse

Pascal Rochefort, a Montreal-area lawyer who represents Nor-Pel, said it’s the union that’s being unco-operative.

He said CUPW has only made one contract offer and it was in a non-negotiable format.

The company is awaiting a decision from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board on whether the contract falls under federal or provincial labour laws, Rochefort said.

In the meantime, the company has gone as far as setting dates to meet with the union and a conciliator.

Contractor says it’s willing to meet

“We’re still open to go there, but the union never came back on those dates and basically just said you either take the collective agreement that we’re sending you, or we go on strike,” said Rochefort.

“We have been and we remain willing to meet with the union in the presence of the conciliator appointed in the file.”

The company is not planning to bring in replacement workers, he said.

According to an emailed statement, Canada Post says it expected some disruption in mail delivery and is monitoring the situation.

However, the post office is not commenting on the strike or negotiations, saying it’s a matter between the contractor and the union.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia

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Strike by contract drivers disrupts some Canada Post parcel service

Canada Post says mail delivery in parts of the Maritimes is being disrupted by striking contract drivers.

About 20 workers who deliver parcels for Nor-Pel, a Quebec-based company contracted by Canada Post, launched an information picket Wednesday morning at the Sydney mail sorting plant on Upper Prince Street.

The employees, who are members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, say they have not been able to negotiate a collective agreement since 2016, when Nor-Pel got the contract.

Darrell Hill, one of the drivers, said he started 16 years ago at $10 an hour. He now makes $14.30 an hour and has no benefits.

Darrell Hill, a delivery driver for 16 years, says every time Canada Post changes contractors, he loses more benefits. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The union says it is willing to negotiate. It’s asking for $18 an hour and a basic medical package for the workers.

Hill said every time Canada Post changes contractors, he loses more benefits.

“We’re sending them a strong message that we’re not fooling around with them,” he said. “We want something done and we want something done now.

“That’s the whole idea of us being here, to get a contract, or get a livable wage and a medical package, or whatever they got.”

Looking for a livable wage, basic benefits

Hill said drivers used to get paid vacation and sick days, food and clothing allowances and medical coverage.

Now, they get nothing, he said.

“I’m paying for everything out of my own pocket and last year I spent almost $3,000 in expenses with my family,” Hill said. 

“It’s a lot of money every month to come out of your pocket. And I think this day and age, everybody should have some kind of medical package, and we went after them when they first got here to give us some kind of a medical package and they kept giving us excuse after excuse after excuse, so we ended up with nothing.”

Mike Palecek, national president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, says Canada Post is “contractor flipping,” which means the union has to regularly start over in collective bargaining. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Mike Palecek, national president of CUPW, was on the picket line on Wednesday, and said the problem is Canada Post is “contract flipping.”

“That allows one company to drop a contract and another one to pick it up, and then it’s like starting all over again with collective bargaining,” he said.

The latest contractor, Nor-Pel, won’t even talk to the union, Palecek said.

Company blames union for bargaining impasse

Pascal Rochefort, a Montreal-area lawyer who represents Nor-Pel, said it’s the union that’s being unco-operative.

He said CUPW has only made one contract offer and it was in a non-negotiable format.

The company is awaiting a decision from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board on whether the contract falls under federal or provincial labour laws, Rochefort said.

In the meantime, the company has gone as far as setting dates to meet with the union and a conciliator.

Contractor says it’s willing to meet

“We’re still open to go there, but the union never came back on those dates and basically just said you either take the collective agreement that we’re sending you, or we go on strike,” said Rochefort.

“We have been and we remain willing to meet with the union in the presence of the conciliator appointed in the file.”

The company is not planning to bring in replacement workers, he said.

According to an emailed statement, Canada Post says it expected some disruption in mail delivery and is monitoring the situation.

However, the post office is not commenting on the strike or negotiations, saying it’s a matter between the contractor and the union.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia

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Dole brand Baby Spinach with Tender Reds recalled due to Listeria monocytogenes

Dole Fresh Vegetables Inc. is recalling of Dole brand Baby Spinach with Tender Reds from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled product. If you think you became sick from consuming a recalled product, call your doctor. Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products …

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Province adds $1M to budget for co-op placements

Dalhousie University student Ben Parmiter is heading back to class this fall without much of a tan, and no break from his field of study — mechanical engineering.

That’s because the 20-year-old from Lawrencetown, N.S., near Halifax, has spent most of the past three months in a Dartmouth research facility, and in the dark, as part of a research team working at Metamaterial Technologies Inc., trying to find new ways to deflect laser light.

Parmiter’s salary is subsidized by taxpayers as part of a co-op program aimed at giving university and college students real-world experience to accompany what they’re studying.

This is his second co-op placement at the company. He’s one of five students working there this summer.

500 students placed in Nova Scotia

They are among the 500 students in a co-op program the provincial government is expanding this year. A $1-million budget increase should create space for another 200 students.

The aim of Parmiter’s research is to find the best way to protect aircraft pilots from suffering damage to their eyes when someone aims a laser pointer at a cockpit.

Researchers are trying to find ways to protect pilots from laser light directed at cockpits. (Jean LaRoche/CBC)

“It’s a very specific research that we’re doing here,” said Parmiter. “And I get to work with such amazing people, such brilliant scientists.

“It’s lots of fun.” he said about being part of the research team.

​Oshrit Harel, MTI’s manager of research and development, said having students as part of the team brings a fresh perspective to the work.

“They have a different way of looking [at] it,” she said.

According to Harel, the students are treated no differently that other team members and are responsible for their own work.

“They are an integral part of our team,” she said.

Practical application

For Parmiter, the biggest advantage of a co-op education is the ability to apply classroom work with practical application.

“The biggest thing is definitely the hands-on experience, so getting to actually use the skills that I’m learning in school,” he said.  “My problem-solving, my analysis skills, so actually applying real-world examples instead of just textbook examples is really important.”

After his studies, Parmiter would like to return as a full-fledged employee. “I would love to work for this company,” he said.

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Kinsman Beach Closed to Swimming

The Halifax Regional Municipality is advising residents Kinsman Beach in Lower Sackville is closed to swimming until further notice due to high bacteria levels in the water. Oakfield Beach is an unsupervised beach. Municipal staff regularly test the water quality at all supervised and four unsupervised municipal beaches during the summer months. Recent test results …

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Kinsman Beach Closed to Swimming

The Halifax Regional Municipality is advising residents Kinsman Beach in Lower Sackville is closed to swimming until further notice due to high bacteria levels in the water. Oakfield Beach is an unsupervised beach. Municipal staff regularly test the water quality at all supervised and four unsupervised municipal beaches during the summer months. Recent test results …

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