Thursday, January 22, 2009

BC Ferries choppy waters of concern to MLA Coons

As we outlined in an earlier posting on our Podunkian portal, the recently announced layoffs by BC Ferries and continuing fears of more to come have only served to confirm for the North Coasts MLA and NDP Ferries critic that there is some troubled times ahead for the Ferry Corporation.

Gary Coons outlined his concerns for the Daily News in its Wednesday edition, providing the local paper with many of his favourite talking points when it comes to the fate of the Ferry fleet on the coast of BC.

Coons has long been expressing his frustrations with the current management of the Corporation and with the Liberal government for what he calls their tendencies to leave British Columbians in the dark over the issues and future for the Corporation.

His latest assessment of the situation at BC Ferries was featured as the front page headline story in the Wednesday paper.

Gary Coons says he fears Prince Rupert's shore workers could be in line for the chop
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Pages one and two

North Coast MLA Gary Coons said that the laying off of 35 BC Ferries managers shows that the provincial ferry operator is in serious financial trouble. And he wonders if Prince Rupert-based shore workers will be next in the firing line.

BC Ferries has restructured its managerial set-up while letting go staff in an attempt to right the ship. And it looks like it might set its sights on shore-based workers next.

"BC Ferries is obviously having serious financial problems, but since Campbell privatized our ferries, British Columbians are left in the dark - even though we still own the company," said Coons.

Coons has said in the past the privatization of BC Ferries has been a dubious move given that the only shareholder in the company is the BC government.

He has also criticized the fact that 100 managers have been hired during the past year and a half.

"I have previously expressed my concern about the exponential increase in management at the corporation with no accountability and no scrutiny.

"We are seeing the end result of BC Ferries out of control."

BC Ferries President and CEO David Hahn concurred with Coons that finances were unstable but blamed the worse turn of fortunes on lower ridership levels, rather than political policies.

"In the face of a significant drop in ferry ridership and the resulting adverse impact on revenues, we must act to reduce the company's management and administrative costs," stated Hahn in a press release.

However, Hahn had a different take on the nature of the layoffs, suggesting that they have been "transitioned" rather than placing people on the unemployment line.

"While no front-line or ship-based employees are directly impacted at this time by this corporate restructuring, further changes and possible lay-offs are anticipated in shore-based positions including unionized staff," said Hahn.

"BC Ferries is one of the leading ferry services in the world and we are committed to proactively aligning our costs with the marketplace during these uncertain and turbulent economic times," said Hahn.

Meanwhile, BC Ferries was busy announcing that it had finalized the $108 million loan agreement for the Northern Expedition.

The money will be used to purchase the ferry from ship-builder Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft.

"We are pleased that BC Ferries was able to complete this significant financial transaction at favourable terms despite the continuing uncertainty in global financial markets," stated BC Ferries' Chief Financial Officer Rob Clarke.

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