Six civilian kitchen employees at Canadian Forces Station St. John’s are slated to lose their jobs, among 172 notices sent out to civilian workers in Canada on Thursday.
(From left) Jack Harris, St. John’s East member of Parliament; Dan Frost, Union of National Defence Employees regional vice-president for Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick; Dave James, president of union local 90101; and Terry Kiley, union regional vice-president for Nova Scotia at a news conference in the offices of the Public Service Alliance of Canada in St. John’s on Thursday.
— Photo by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram
At a news conference in St. John’s on Thursday morning, Terry Kiley, a regional vice-president of the Union of National Defence Employees, which represents the workers, said the Department of National Defence (DND) is eliminating all kitchen positions as CFS St. John’s transitions into a new Pleasantville facility, and will contract work out — largely feeding reservists and cadets — in the future.
“These workers are your family, friends and neighbours,” said Kiley. “They are members of the community. They volunteer and belong to local organizations.”
Jack Harris, NDP member of Parliament for St. John’s East, said some of the workers losing their jobs have more than 20 years of civilian service to the Canadian military, and have been crucial, especially in emergencies. He called the cuts a “retrograde” step.
“They’ve fed as many as a thousand people a day during the crisis of 9-11, and were instrumental in looking after the Forces during hurricane Igor operations,” he said at the news conference, held at the Public Service Alliance of Canada office. “This is a top-notch service provided by dedicated, experienced long-term workers.”
The rationale for the cuts, said Harris, is the lack of military personnel living at CFS St. John’s.
“That is a policy that should not be applied here in St. John’s. There are, in fact, CF personnel here. They don’t have military housing because they got rid of it all, and they decided that they weren’t going to have any housing with respect to Canadian Forces Station St. John’s, yet there are in excess of a hundred CF personnel attending courses at the Marine Institute, doing their specialized training for seaman trades and mariner trades.”
The work will still need to be done, said Dave James, president of union local 90101.
“The bulk of our resources are served on the weekends, with the reserve units. You might see 50 (people). You might see 300. It depends on what training that they’re doing,” he said. “Now that there’s not going to be a kitchen (staff) there, these guys are going to be left to their own, how they’re going to feed their own troops. A lot of these organizations and reserve units don’t have cooks, so they’re going to be left to either cater it out or bring a bag lunch. … The work is still there, it’s just not full-time military work. It’s been like that for 10 years.”
The union will, under workforce adjustment provisions in its collective bargaining agreement, attempt to find employment for the affected workers elsewhere in the public service. But Harris said limiting many employees’ options will be their years of casual service before they were brought on full-time, which won’t be factored in, .
Twenty-three-year employee Sandra Hutchings said she feels “used” by DND.
“For the past two years, we’ve been working ourselves to the ground,” she said. “We work 16-hour shifts. We don’t take any overtime (pay). All of this we’ve been told will get us into the new building, so they don’t have to hire any more casual staff. We do all the work in-house. We do it all ourselves. I worked 54 hours in four days, no overtime. Just a day off here and there. I feel like I’ve been used for the last two years, because they always told us that we were going to go into the new building. The decision wouldn’t be made until we were in the new building.”
Kim Ducey, who was brought in full-time just five years ago after casual work since 1986, said she’s not sure what she’ll do.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” she said. “This retraining business, I don’t know. Mid-40s, I don’t think about retraining now. Halifax is an option — they have our positions available in Halifax, but I have a house and a husband, daughter in university. I don’t think picking up and leaving right now is a good idea.”
The bulk of the job notices — 145 positions — were sent to workers at Canadian Forces Base Montreal.