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NEWS RELEASE April 20, 2005

BC SHIPYARD GENERAL WORKERS' FEDERATION

Is BC Ferries negotiating $500 million contract for new North Coast ferries with German shipbuilding yard? Is BC Ferries buying housing in Germany for staff? Will Australian firm get more untendered contracts for BC Ferries' work? BC Shipyard Workers Federation issues open letter to BC Ferries to demand answers

Only hope for public to get answers from unaccountable BC Ferries, Federation says

VANCOUVER – The BC Shipyard General Workers' Federation has issued an open letter demanding answers from BC Ferries about its possible plans to export over $500 million in new shipbuilding and other work out to foreign shipyards without tendered bidding, as well as how much accommodation in and travel to foreign countries is costing the public.

Federation President George MacPherson said the only hope British Columbians can have to get any answers about what is going on at BC Ferries is by pressuring the company to respond to public questions.

“BC Ferries does not report to the BC Legislature nor is it accountable to British Columbians through Freedom of Information requests so the only thing we can do is put pressure on them in public to answer legitimate questions about how they are operating,” MacPherson said. “BC Ferries is still owned by and funded by taxpayers.”

MacPherson said among the questions he wants answers to are:

  • Is BC Ferries negotiating with Flensburger Shipyard to build three new North Coast ferries worth over half a billion dollars or will the contract be put to an open, fair public tendering process that BC shipyards can compete in?
  • Is BC Ferries purchasing housing in Germany to accommodate BC Ferries' staff supervising the construction of three Super C-Class ferries worth $542 million at the Flensburger Shipyard? If so at what cost? Are their families also being accommodated?
  • How much is BC Ferries spending to fly staff back and forth to Germany and accommodate them there?
  • Did BC Ferries pay for staff from Flensburger Shipyard to come to British Columbia to tour the existing C-Class ferries last year? If so, how much did that cost BC Ferries?
  • Why was a contract worth an estimated $800,000 for new liferaft and evacuation chutes given to Liferaft Systems Australia to upgrade emergency evacuation systems on the Queen of Nanaimo without a public tendering process and why was Richmond company DBC Marine Safety Systems excluded from even bidding on the job after providing such equipment for over 20 years?
  • Will untendered contracts continue to be let by BC Ferries for other liferaft and evacuation work refitting other BC Ferries ships?
  • How much has BC Ferries spent on travel to Australia in connection to the liferaft and evacuation chute contract?
  • What negotiations have taken place between BC Ferries and Polish shipyard Remontowa shipyard on construction of a Bowen Island replacement ferry?
  • Why was the new ferry contract that was to have been reached in early 2005 delayed until after the May 17 election?
  • Why did North Vancouver 's Washington Marine Group and Allied Shipbuilders only get details of the Bowen Island ferry project after the Shipyard Federation accused BC Ferries of negotiating to give the job to Remontowa?

MacPherson said the Federation has been given information privately that raises serious questions about the costs and operations of BC Ferries but has no way to verify what is going on with the corporation, which is owned by the government.

“BC Ferries has become a secretive and unaccountable corporation even though it is still owned by the public and still receives a government subsidy of $127 million,” MacPherson said. “It's time that BC Ferries provided some direct answers to the people of this province about exactly what it is doing and why.”

MacPherson said the Federation is deeply concerned about reports that three new replacement ferries for the North Coast routes could be built at the Flensburger Shipyard in Germany .

“Losing this major shipbuilding project would be disastrous for the BC shipbuilding industry,” MacPherson said. “If BC Ferries continues to exclude BC shipyards and suppliers from bidding on the biggest ship constructions jobs we will see in decades, there is not much of a future for shipbuilding in this province.”

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. For background, go to www.bcshipyardworkers.com

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