BC Rail Sell-off Irks Union
A decision by CN to end talks to buy Ontario
Northland Railway because
the province demanded job guarantees should make British
"deathly afraid" about a similar move by the B.C. government to
private B.C. Rail, says union leader Jim Sinclair.
"Any suggestion that a private company of any
description is going
to maintain employment levels in rural B.C. is absolutely ludicrous,"
Sinclair, the president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, who is in Prince George tonight to host
a conference on the province's economy. "At least the government of Ontario figured out they
had some responsibility to the people who work and pay taxes in the
This government hasn't figured that out yet."
Sinclair noted a recent leaked government
internal report suggested
that CN would cut more than two-thirds of B.C. Rail's 1,800 employees
Sinclair contended the 1,200 job cuts would
kill $90 million in
paycheques, many of those outside the Lower Mainland, noting there are
than 400 B.C. Rail jobs in Prince George alone. (The
internal document pegged the savings from the job cuts at $71 million).
"You're going to sign a contract for up to 80
years, there's no
guarantee that those jobs will be there then, let alone in 12 months,"
The B.C. government has said it needs to find
a private company to
operate B.C. Rail because it's suffering under a mountain of debt and
providing adequate service. Its energy plan -- which includes the
B.C. Hydro -- is meant to increase energy production and create jobs in
Prince George North Liberal MLA Pat Bell said
recently the proposal to
find a private company to operate B.C. Rail in a long-term lease
dictates" massive layoffs will not be supported.
Paul Nettleton, Independent MLA for Prince
George-Omineca, renewed his
call for the government to amend the request for proposals to include