NEWS RELEASE March 22, 2006
Washington Marine Group sinking British Columbia shipbuilding industry by refusing to bid on new $350 million BC Ferries' North Coast replacement ferries says BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation; 5000 jobs, major investment lost to BC in foolish decision, says George MacPherson
BC Federation of Labour, BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union voice shock at decision
VANCOUVER – The Washington Marine Group is sinking the British Columbia shipbuilding industry by refusing to make a bid to construct two new BC Ferries' North Coast ferries worth about $350 million, the BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation said today.
Federation President George MacPherson says the foolish decision by the North Vancouver-based company will cost B.C. as many as 5000 direct and indirect jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars that will now all go to foreign shipyards.
“I am shocked and I am livid with the Washington Marine Group for refusing to even bid on constructing these important ships for BC Ferries,” MacPherson said. “The Washington Marine Group is literally sinking our BC shipbuilding industry with this unbelievable decision.”
MacPherson said he learned of the decision recently after the Washington Marine Group sent a letter to BC Ferries stating it would not make a bid to replace the 37-year-old Queen of the North, which sunk after running aground near Hartley Bay in March, and the aging Queen of Prince Rupert.
“Shipyard workers now have to question the very existence of a shipbuilding industry in this province after our largest company says ‘no thanks' to our largest customer,” MacPherson said.
The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation led a huge fight in 2004 against building three new Super-C class ferries worth $542 million in a German shipyard without the Washington Marine Group being given the opportunity to make a final bid to build them in British Columbia.
In a letter to Washington Marine Group President Rollie Webb, MacPherson said the company's stated reason that it is “too busy” with other work to make a bid simply doesn't make sense and asked why shipyard unions and other smaller shipyard companies were not consulted.
“We are also shocked that devastating decisions that affect your entire organization as well as the entire industry are done with absolutely no consultation or involvement with your labour unions or with the rest of the industry,” MacPherson wrote. “We have also suggested in the past that if the Washington Marine Group is not capable of undertaking these projects on their own, then there are other players in the industry that would step up to the plate and assist you to make sure the work remains in BC.”
BC Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair said today the Washington Marine Group decision is irresponsible.
“British Columbia has a proud history of shipbuilding, from constructing the RCMP's St. Roch that went through the Northwest Passage to liberty ships during World War II to the great BC Ferries Spirit class ships that serve us well today,” Sinclair said. “So for Washington Marine Group to not even bother to bid on such a major shipbuilding project that is so important to the province is extremely troubling for the future of the industry.”
BC Ferry and Marine Workers Union President Jackie Miller said today she is astonished that the Washington Marine Group would not bid after it received strong support from her members to build the Super-C ferries in BC.
“Ferry workers want to sail on ships built in British Columbia by BC workers and the Washington Marine Group is ensuring that more and more of our fleet is built in foreign shipyards – it makes no sense to us,” Miller said.
MacPherson said his member and the strong majority of British Columbian who polling showed supported building new ferries in BC can only be extremely disheartened by the Washington Marine Group's lack of confidence in and respect for the province.
“This was the time to show leadership, to show vision and to show the world what we can build here in British Columbia. The Washington Marine Group has failed that test miserably and the province and the industry will suffer as a result,” MacPherson said. “Unfortunately so will shipyard workers – who can build great ships but can't make decisions on behalf of the company.”
The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation represents about 1,600 workers in the shipbuilding, repair and maintenance industry.
For more information : Call George MacPherson at 604-254-8204 or cell 604-220-3291 or Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, at 604-844-7827 or cell 778-896-0964; Jim Sinclair at 604-430-1421; Jackie Miller at 250- 882-4562. Website: www.bcshipyardworkers.com