Pam Frampton’s column “Living in the red” (Nov. 29/ 17) asked a number of good questions regarding overtime on provincial marine ferries, and as usual, prompted a no-accountability type of answer from the relevant department.
In my opinion, the crews have a blank cheque. Fact: the cost of the ferry service as a whole is a noose around the necks of non-user taxpayers. Government is risk averse to media complaints, or by “gimme-gimme” dock protesters who know they can manipulate them.
The results speak for themselves: all governments have been skill management deprived in this area. They say they have recruiting problems. I believe that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. To my mind, if you want a good worker with experience you have to pay at least $25 an hour. All workers, like deckhands and mates who can work to rule and in effect create overtime, should be on contract, with their performance closely monitored. Skippers should not be part of the union, nor on an hourly wage. They should be accountable for the efficient operation of their vessel. All obstacles to that objective should be removed. They should be part of the hiring and firing process. Skippers should be rewarded for efficient management.
Overtime is, in many cases, discretionary spending and should be brought as close to zero as possible. If for any reason a round trip cannot be made without incurring overtime, the second last trip should be cancelled. Government, where possible, should contract with suitable boat owners for emergency medical trips. There is no way a $50-million ferry with crew on overtime should make emergency trips off normal schedule. We, the people, cannot afford it. Rightly or wrongly, some of the ferry rates are, for want of a better word, chicken feed; for example: a Bell Island commuter pays $3.25 return. That same commuter with a car pays $4 return, so the car, pickup or van is 75 cents, return. You cannot buy a stale chocolate bar for that. It appears that there is no resident/non-resident rate, and there should be. We need a comprehensive analysis of the marine services “boondoggle.” Successive governments have been miserable managers.
Sick leave, overtime and government use of private automobiles, as mentioned in Pam’s column, are a gravy train in many departments. The following is an example of lack of government control; it was not witnessed during the current Liberal mandate.
My company had a small a supply/install contract in a government building in central; I was in the area before the job started, so arranged to visit the site. I was to meet the individual in charge at an unrelated building. I rang the intercom and was instructed by the lone occupant of the modern two-storey brick structure to come to the second floor. I made my way, passing fully equipped meeting rooms etc., to a fabulously equipped commercial kitchen, where the individual was making pickles. I outlined my business and was told that the individual I was to see was gone on ice patrol. I commented that there was no ice on the ponds yet; he said we had frost last night. He said, “at $600 an hour for chopper rental, he won’t be gone long.” Question is, is ice patrol still a justifiable activity? There are many unneeded buildings like the one I visited, built for good politically justified reasons. There is another in Stephenville.
Federal politicians snag the money and the province takes financial responsibility. We are at a crossroads where every cost centre, every nook and cranny of government operations needs to be justified. The current crowd in government does not seem capable, or perhaps willing.
Their Way Forward is focused on noise calming. Maybe the next bunch will be better; I dream of the day (and of winning the lottery).