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NEWS RELEASE September 20, 2002

Shipyard General Workers' Federation calls on BC government to drop foreign bids from $175 million tender to refit and construct BC Ferries' ships as September 20 deadline reached, saying BC jobs will be lost if forced into unfair competition, with subsidized Chinese shipyards paying workers as little as $76 Cdn a month

The Shipyard General Workers' Federation is calling on the BC government to drop foreign bids from a $175 million tender to refit and construct BC Ferries' ships, saying it is an unfair competition when subsidized Chinese shipyards are paying workers as little as $76 Cdn a month. The deadline for bids on the first of five refits and construction of a new ship is today.

"On a level playing field, BC shipyards and workers can compete with anyone," says George MacPherson, president of the Shipyard General Workers' Federation. "But it is impossible to compete with government-subsidized foreign shipyards like those in China, where workers are paid as little as $76 Cdn a month and have few labour rights or health and safety rules."

MacPherson says a poll by the Federation demonstrates that British Columbians agree. The Pollara poll of 500 respondents released Monday found that 70% believe that the government should make sure that BC shipyard bids are competing on an even playing field against foreign shipyards that are subsidized by their governments, pay workers lower wages and have fewer safety standards.

The poll also found that 90% of those surveyed said it was either very important [58%] or important [32%] for the provincial government to buy local BC goods and services, while 65% said the government should only purchase from BC suppliers.

MacPherson said shipyard workers in China are paid from $76 to $570 a month, compared to average wages in the BC industry of about $3500 to $4000 a month.

The Chinese shipyard industry also has far lower health and safety standards, MacPherson said, pointing to a major accident in a Shanghai shipyard in July 2001 that killed 36 workers. Independent unions are banned in China and labour rights severely restricted, he said.

Representatives from shipyards in China, Korea and Singapore attended a BC Ferries' bidders' conference in Nanaimo in August and are believed to have submitted bids, MacPherson said.

For more information, contact George MacPherson at 604-254-8204.

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