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News Release September 5, 2002

Shipyard workers charge confidential bidding information shows BC government attempting to favour foreign shipbuilding firms in refit and construction of BC Ferries vessels by avoiding full duty on work done overseas - union demands level playing field to compete fairly

The BC government is attempting to favour foreign shipbuilding firms in its controversial decision to ask overseas countries to bid on the refit and construction of BC Ferries' vessels by avoiding paying full duty, charges the Shipyard General Workers' Federation.

Federation president George MacPherson says confidential BC Ferries corporation information about a bidders' conference held in mid-August clearly shows that the provincial government is attempting to avoid paying duty on refit and new construction work that might be done by shipyard bidders from Singapore, Korea, China or other foreign countries.

MacPherson says the bid information obtained by the Federation shows that despite inviting bidders from around the world to the August 13-14 bidders' conference in Nanaimo, BC Ferries does not actually know what duties would be applied. BC Ferries has subsequently been lobbying the federal government for an exemption from duties for foreign bidders, he said.

"BC shipyards can compete with shipyards anywhere if the terms and conditions are fair and we have a level playing field but BC Ferries is trying to slant the deck against BC workers and actively helping foreign shipyards," MacPherson says. "It boggles the mind that BC Ferries would be asking the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to exempt work done in foreign shipyards from duties that any other Canadian company would have to pay," he said.

MacPherson said the bid information shows that originally BC Ferries was demanding foreign firms insure each vessel for $50 million going to their shipyard and $75 million coming back, to reflect the value of work done. But an addendum to the bid book that changes the insurance values to $50 million each way is a transparent attempt to avoid paying duty on the true added value of the refitted ships, he says.

MacPherson says if BC Ferries continues to attempt to avoid paying full duty, the Shipyard General Workers' Federation may have to sue to ensure a countervailing duty is levied on any foreign shipyard work.

"It's bad enough that they may spend BC taxpayers dollars to create foreign jobs, to allow overseas companies whose countries subsidize their shipyards to bid on BC work and to ignore inadequate health and safety regulations and labour conditions but to then try to avoid paying duties as well is simply unbelievable," MacPherson says. "Why is the BC government determined to take jobs away from BC workers and companies?"

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

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