The Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council signed the memorandum of understanding with the project’s proponent, Harbor Port Development Partners, on Wednesday.
Jack Wall, the president of the building and construction trades council, said there are “a lot of good jobs” at stake, so a guarantee there wouldn’t be any labour disruptions during the construction phase was important to the developer.
He said the council sees the MOU as a legally binding document, which would put potential terminal operators and shippers’ minds at ease with “labour stability.”
“If it gives the owner and the investors the comfort and peace of mind knowing the first day we go to work there will be no labour interruptions. That’s the main thing for us,” Wall said.
He said collective bargaining would be completed in advance of container terminal construction and a contract would span the entire project timeline.
Construction work on this scale may encourage tradespeople to hold off on moving out West if they believe two to three years worth of employment is available in Sydney, he added.
Eight men representing various trades such as electricians, bricklayers, carpenters, painters and operating engineers were on hand for the signing ceremony at the Cape Breton Island Building and Construction Trades Council office in Sydney.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke was also in attendance.
Harbor Port Development Partners CEO Albert Barbusci said the shipping industry continues to suffer major losses around the globe, which makes attracting a terminal operator more challenging.
“What’s difficult is to convince the operator to sign today, not knowing if they’ve hit bottom yet in their industry,” he said.
Barbusci said his group has reached the final stage of development with financing and construction partners in place.
Harbor Port Development Partners is awaiting the results from a feasibility study conducted by China Communications Construction Company on whether a container terminal will work in Sydney harbour.
“And so we’re at a point where we think that — and it’s hard to pin it down — but within this next 12-month cycle we should have shovels in the ground.”
That cannot happen without it first securing a terminal operator and at least one shipper, he noted.
Wall said he’s hoping to see the project create at least 800 to 1,600 construction jobs but admitted he has no idea how many jobs could come from the project.