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NEWS RELEASE December 9, 2002

BC Shipyard General Workers Federation says BC Ferries changes announced today would let provincial government avoid responsibility for giving away valuable BC jobs to foreign shipyards for the refit and construction of BC Ferries vessels

The provincial government would be able to avoid responsibility for giving away valuable BC jobs to foreign shipyards for the refit and construction of BC Ferries vessels under new changes to BC Ferries announced today, says the Shipyard General Workers' Federation.

Federation president George MacPherson says BC Ferries has already tried to contract out important refit and new construction work to countries like China, Korea, Singapore, the United States and Poland and that the new independent authority structure proposed would be an attempt to avoid political responsibility for decisions that could kill the BC shipbuilding industry.

"Our economy is already bad enough without sending jobs and investment to China to build and repair our BC Ferries fleet," says MacPherson. "The BC government could have announced today that they are ending foreign bidding on BC Ferries work but instead they are trying to avoid political responsibility for decisions that are bad for BC's economy and bad for BC shipbuilding."

MacPherson said the recent awarding of a refit contract on the Queen of Coquitlam in October to a BC shipbuilding company that was the low bidder is proof that BC shipyards are not only creating jobs and investment in BC but are internationally competitive.

"We've proven, as we said all along, that BC shipyards can do the job cheaper, do it better and keep jobs and investment right here, with our workers paying BC taxes," MacPherson said. "Why would any government not make that its priority, instead of allowing foreign companies to keep bidding on BC work?"

MacPherson noted that BC Ferries chair David Emerson said today he wanted to "work in partnership with organized labour" but that if jobs disappear to foreign countries, there will be no one left to partner with.

"We would welcome a partnership with BC Ferries but to date they've been trying to become partners with workers in China, Korea, the U.S. and anywhere but BC," said MacPherson. "I would hope that the government would insist the new corporation keep all shipyard work in BC"

MacPherson said a poll released by the Shipyard Federation in September that showed 90% of British Columbians say it is important for the province buy goods and services locally should indicate to government that it's time to end bidding by foreign shipyards.

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

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