The gloves are off.
Canada’s maritimes unions have served notice to the government that we will not agree to selling off our jobs to flag-of-convenience owners. To letting our industry’s global bottom-dwellers take over trade between Canadian ports. We will not agree to watch seafarers across Canada hand their remaining jobs to shipowners ruled by appalling bottom lines — owners more interested in moving goods in and out of Canada by exploiting foreign seafarers who work for as little as $3 an hour, instead of employing the Canadians who now man our coastal trading vessels and passenger ferries and stand a dedicated watch over the safety of the workplaces and ships and the environmental integrity of our waters.
Hell, no, we won’t go. Not there.
Maritime unions are in Ottawa this week for biannual meetings with Transport Canada — gatherings that are supposed to offer a chance for government to consult with industry and labour as it develops the policies and regulations that shape and govern the country’s critical transportation sector.
Take a listen to just part of what we told them.
Listen as Peter Lahay, the ITF’s Canadian coordinator, rips a strip off a process that requires unions to spend scarce time and money on travelling to Ottawa so that policy mandarins can tick their “duly consulted” boxes — and then regulate us out of existence.
Vince Giannopoulos, our inspector for the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region, speaks too. Vince is a young worker, a seafarer and a labour rep, and it was moving to watch him speak some labour truth to bureaucratic power. Listen as Vince argues that the best way to address concerns about safety, security and the environment is to employ the very workers who have a stake in the waters they sail.
Lahay takes on the issue of “regulatory capture” — the mess that arises when regulators are in the pocket of a regulation-averse industry. It has happened right across our transportation industry, and it stinks.
And he bare-knuckles the new trade deals and bills that would open up the sale of Canadian shipboard jobs on all of our coasts — starting with freight and ending with ferries. That would open up dredging contracts. That would obliterate the historic role that Canadians have played in moving our goods safely, cleanly and with some measure of economic justice for the workers who head out to sea daily to get the job done.
We’ve been told before that “come hell or high water,” government will move in the direction it has set. This week, we served notice that they have no idea what hell they are unleashing. Paul Martin, an earlier Liberal prime minister, was outed by organized labour for his shameful actions as a flag-of-convenience operator, and the shaming dogged him throughout his career. Justin Trudeau should expect no less.
As for the Transport Canada policy makers planning this nasty business, they have failed to protect the country. They have not done their jobs. Perhaps it is time to contract their work out. To Panama.
Our thanks to Karl Risser, the ITF’s inspector for Canada’s Atlantic region, for the video. Karl has a great eye and is always there to capture a solidarity moment.