Tuesday, June 26, 2007

BC Liberals don't care as family-supporting jobs lost in aircraft, forest industry

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday June 26, 2007

No sympathy from Grits over pink slips


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

- "Youngstown", by Bruce Springsteen

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.


munroe said...

Ironically, as I read your column I was listening to the NW news. Finlayson was on talking about the "perfect storm"; how small business needed help with training costs due to the labour shortage. The "storm" was retirements, less young workers and international competition. The major complainers are in construction, hospitality and health. No mention of the loss of skilled, well paying jobs.

Instead of any concern about job losses, we have an intense campaign to subsidize certain sectors and a parallel campaign to convince B.C. of the need for temporary foreign workers (as opposed to immigration). Next thing you know the answer to an unemployed airport mechanic when he or she complains will be for them to take a government financed retraining programme as a server or room service worker.

I can see several reasons for this apparent contradiction. The first is the generally anti-union attitude prevelant amongst and promoted by the business elite and their politicos. The second is that a focus on a "labour shortage" tends to make people believe there is a general economic boom. The third is that there are economic sectors who will do anything to fill voids, provided it is at no cost and the workers are ultimately disposable. Finally it is the request for further reward by the business elite in construction, retail and health who strongly "invested" in this government. The last thing they could stand would be to have any "market forces", real or perceived, drive up wages and dint their profits.

Keep up the good work. Someone has to balance the story.

Anonymous said...

Seems if the jobs are anyway related to unions, Gordon looks the other way. since we are hell bent on selling, make that giving away our natural resources , jobs mean little to the present government, except for theirs. Cutting down all those trees to stop infestation is making very large clear cuts and making a few folks rich.should be lo of fires this summer up that way. Contract out all those jobs will eventually mean less tax revenue. dl

Cat1015 said...

It shocks me that anyone actually still thinks the BC Government gives a crap about them. They don't! I'm a healthcare worker so I have first hand knowledge after my 15% livlihood decrease, and then watching the gov't give themselves a 42% increase since I lost my wages (yes first 12% after the Feds gave back the 10 million the province said it was short so it took healthcare workers wages and 29% recently - equals 42.) Surprise!!.
Campbell didn't care about the little guy when he sold real estate, he didn't care when he was Mayor so he surely does not care because he is Premier. He is only intersted in looking good to the outside world and perhaps his girlfriend - certainly no one else.
He and his cabinet are a disgrace and anyone in his cabinet are (I imagine) a part of the same bad apples. Anything they do to apease the public is only so we won't get after them for all the other crap they pull. Its like the bad boy who keeps getting caught so finally does something good and then thinks he can go back to his bad behaviour. When will it stop? When will people see? Why is there not anarchy in the streets. What goes on here is very very bad and it is only the public who suffer, the people who voted and those who didn't vote for them. Why the public refuses to see after so much evidence that they are bastards, I still find facinating - well okay I'm no longer facinated but amazed that the general public is so stupid. People who were listening to him speak knew of his intentions before he got to be Premier, so don't be surprised by anything he does or his cabinet does. Like Bill 29, Bill 37, he does what he wants and makes up the rules to suit him as he goes along. Do we hear dictatorship? Will I hear Vito next? Didn't Bush just vito something?. Like Bush if Gordo Campbell can find a way to line his own pockets, make himself look good (in his eyes) and screw the little guy then Gordo Campbell is your man. Jump on the bandwagon, if not then isn't it time we said enough is enough? When will that be? I think the Liberals far surpass the issues other governments in this province have ever created. And with the Olympics Gordo's legacy of continuing poverty is scheduled to last until there is no one left to complain.... maybe then the rich will take notice.

Anonymous said...

Who will be doing the work of those 667 aircraft mechanics and heavy maintenance technicians now?

In related(?) news: "US Senate Transportation Committee member Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Miss.) still has reservations about non-certificated foreign repair station safety and security..." "McCaskill sent a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey pointing out that 18 months had passed since the U.S. Transportation Dept.'s Inspector General audited the Administration's oversight of non-certified foreign repair stations. IG made seven recommendations to FAA, including determining whether the type of work performed by those facilities should be limited and expanding its maintenance oversight program to include non-certificated facilities if no limits are placed on the work performed at those locations." www.aviationweek.com

Anonymous said...

Bribary concerning the selling BC Rail, BC Hydro, sold to an offshore holding company. Nothing here, move along.
The TILMA agreement allows provincial, municipal, and labour laws to be set aside and corporations can sue if their profits are jepordised by these laws.
The SPP agreement over-rides everything.

Devin said...

I dislike the Campbell government as they are making problems rather than helping us, the public. Is it possible to push forward a vote of no-confidence in their government so we can boot Campbell out rather than waiting for our next election in May 2008?

I'd be more than happy if we can start lawsuits against him and his cronies responsible for their use of contrary languages designed to harm the public's interest and to hoard wealth for themselves in blatant disregard for the majority.

Unknown said...

I dislike the Campbell govt too but what are they supposed to do in these 2 situations? Bail out the companies? I don't think there's any legislative way to keep these cuts from happening.

Anonymous said...

Recall is still on the books.

Perhaps you could piggy-back on Marty Zlotnik's little ginger group out on the Pt Grey campus.

He's collecting signatures to present to the MLA out there to protest the possible loss of the UBC golf course to a treaty settlement with the Musqueam. All because of another court decision.

Funny how important the good burghers of Pt Grey think this matter is.

You have to wonder if the Premier will put them off with the same line he's using relative to cleaning up that other court ordered mess of Bill 29?

Budd Campbell said...

Bill, you have me at a bit of a disadvantage since I don't have the stats right in front of me, but a loss of 13,000 manufacturing jobs in BC is not what I am familiar with, over the last year or so.

On the contrary, in BC manufacturing has not taken as large hits from the rising Canadian dollar as it has in Ontario or Quebec. What's more, one of the untold success stories over the past 15 or so years has been a steady increase in manufacturing outside the resource related plants such as sawmills, pulp mills, and metal smelters.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks for your comment Budd - I've now added a link to the BC Stats webpage I referenced. If you go there you will see the manufacturing jobs numbers dropping as I wrote.

What may confuse or surprise readers is what is included in the "manufacturing" sector - food manufacturing, wood products, paper, plastics, metal, textiles, leather etc.

What's also interesting - particularly to Budd, I suspect - is that BC has actually lost 5000 manufacturing jobs when you compare the "terrible" NDP government days of 2000 to the "boom" days of the BC Liberals in 2006!

One should also note that there are "goods producing" jobs in forestry and there are "manufacturing" jobs as well.