DFO tells more than 1,000 workers they could lose their jobs

BC search and rescue station shut down, Coast Guard regional offices close, DFO’s capacity to protect aquatic ecosystems and fisheries further diminished

Ottawa – The Public Service Alliance of Canada has confirmed that 598 of its members are among the 1,072 Department of Fisheries and Oceans workers being told today that they could lose their jobs. It isn’t known yet how many of these workers will be laid off or how many positions will be cut.

The Canadian Coast Guard is hardest hit: of the 1,072 notices, 763 are going to Canadian Coast Guard workers, 460 of whom are PSAC members represented by the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees.

“On the one hand we have a government putting on a show to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Coast Guard, and on the other we see it closing offices and shutting down search and rescue,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC National Executive Vice-President.

The government says it will shut down Vancouver’s Kitsilano search and rescue station which responds to hundreds of emergency calls a year. The station is located in Canada’s largest port which is crowded with recreational and commercial shipping and boating traffic.

“This is the third search and rescue station this government has shut down after St. John’s and Quebec City,” said Christine Collins, National President of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees. “It says it will amalgamate that operation with the Sea Island Station in Richmond, but that means longer response times which can mean the difference between life and death.”

The Canadian Coast Guard’s regional offices are being reduced from five to three, meaning a large number of notices went to administrative workers in Sarnia, Dartmouth, the National Capital Region, St. John’s, Quebec City and Vancouver.

About 25 ships’ crew workers are among those affected in Vancouver and Quebec City. Collins says that doesn’t include another 100 or so ships’ crew term workers who will also lose their jobs. 

“It takes five to six years for ships’ crew workers to earn enough hours to get indeterminate status, and now we see so many of these workers, who have waited for years for job security, finding out they won’t have a job,” said Collins. “This is an insult to those workers, especially while the government claims to be celebrating the Coast Guard.”

Another 138 PSAC members represented by the Union of Environment Workers are also receiving notices today, including finance and administrative workers, ecosystems and fisheries management workers and science workers such as technicians who support biologists and chemists in hatcheries and research stations.

“We are alarmed that this government is diminishing DFO’s capacity to protect fisheries, fish stocks and aquatic ecosystems at the same time it is gutting the Fisheries Act,” said Aylward.

“Management was tight-lipped about the impact on programs and services,” said Todd Panas, UEW national president. “This secrecy is not warranted and the government needs to be open about what this means for services and communities,” he added.

The government has told union officials it is shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area field station in northwestern Ontario, which since 1968 has offered scientists and biologists a unique way of studying freshwater ecosystems. It also appears that a fish hatchery in Mersey, Nova Scotia will close. DFO libraries are also affected: eleven libraries serving the department will be reduced to two main libraries and two satellite libraries.

The department also told union officials that it will end all funding for the At-Sea Observer Program, meaning industry will now pay for observers on fishing boats to monitor industry fishing quota compliance.

“This is very troubling as it appears the government will be ending federal oversight of fish catches at a time when fish stocks are still in peril,” said Panas.

Panas also says fish harvesters will be impacted by plans to shut down several of the field offices where fishery officers provide front line services that protect fish resources.

“The ministry says it will close some of those offices and centralize the services offered by fishery officers, and that means moving them further away from the waters they patrol and the fishing communities they serve,” said Panas.

The job cuts are part of the government’s plan to cut DFO’s operational budget by $79.3 million over three years or 5.8 per cent of its $1.36 billion budget. UEW and PSAC are launching the web site, ourfish.ca, to raise public awareness about the impact of these cuts, and amendments to the Fisheries Act, on Canada’s fisheries, aquatic ecosystems and economy.

Since the Federal Budget was tabled on March 29, 2012, 13,000 PSAC members in 41 federal government departments and agencies have received notices saying they could lose their jobs.

For up-to-date numbers, analysis of the impact on services, and job losses anticipated by the PSAC, please see our web site at psac.com and follow us on Twitter @psacnat.

For more information:      
Shelina Merani, PSAC Communications, 613-293-9324
Alain Cossette, PSAC Communications, 613-293-9210