Tuesday June 26, 2007
No sympathy from Grits over pink slips
By BILL TIELEMAN
Seven hundred tons of metal a day
Now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name
Decent, family-supporting jobs are disappearing from British Columbia. But the B.C. Liberal government doesn't seem to care.
This month 667 aircraft mechanics and heavy maintenance technicians got pink slips at Air Canada Technical Services at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond.
The jobs of another 450 workers at the Canfor sawmill in Mackenzie will be history by August.
Catalyst Paper is closing its Port Alberni paper mill - goodbye to 185 jobs by September, despite city council cutting company taxes by $1.2 million. And it will cut 130 more jobs at its Vancouver head office.
Overall, the province lost 13,700 manufacturing jobs between 2004 and 2006, according to B.C. Stats, the government's own agency. *NOTE NEW LINK ABOVE TO BC STATS*
And nothing but silence from Premier Gordon Campbell. Consider the case at Vancouver International Airport.
You might think losing 667 jobs that pay on average about $60,000 and that total about $40 million annually would be a big concern for Campbell and his cabinet.
But neither Campbell nor a single Liberal MLA has spoken out about the damage this will inflict on the workers or the province.
And it gets worse.
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon told the union representing those workers that he had better things to do than worry about their impending job losses.
"Kevin Falcon told us it wasn't a provincial matter and he didn't have time to look into it. It was disgusting," says Tania Canniff, President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 764.
Canniff only got the meeting in April because she is one of Falcon's constituents in his Cloverdale riding.
"No other Liberal MLA has contacted us at all," Canniff told 24 hours, even though all of Richmond is represented, using the term loosely, by B.C. Liberal MLAs.
Not even Labour Minister Olga Illich replied to IAMAW 764's letter of concern about the massive layoffs, Canniff said, despite the fact Illich is MLA for Richmond Centre. Nor has Minister of State Linda Reid, MLA for Richmond East or MLA John Yap for Richmond-Steveston.
But Illich's website does feature important items like: "Richmond Receives Funding to Remove Noxious Weeds, Ilich Announces".
B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair isn't surprised.
"This government has no commitment to good paying jobs, period," Sinclair said in an interview.
"The economic boom is not being driven by manufacturing - it's fueled by high commodity prices, especially energy, and high housing prices," Sinclair says. "If we're going to compete with the world, we're going to do it with decent paying jobs and highly trained skilled workers."
Maybe, but not when the only finger Campbell, Falcon and Illich lift to save them is the middle one.