Union, town hoping to prevent job loss
According to site manager Alan Casey, Serco employees at 5 Wing Goose Bay have until tomorrow (Jan. 22) to offer themselves up for voluntary layoffs, before final decisions are made on who stays and who will receive severance packages.
“Of that 25 (layoffs), we’re hoping to deal with approximately half through voluntary layoffs, people who are looking to move on and take their severance…” said Casey
“To me, that bothers me far less than somebody who very much wants to hold on to their job.”
According to Casey, they received four volunteers to date.
On Wednesday, says Casey, Serco and the Department of National Defense needs go through more details on how the decisions will be implemented.
“It’s mostly sitting down with the costumer and clarifying some of their changes in requirements and how they want to implement it,” said Casey.
Tough news to deliver
It was tough news to swallow for Serco employees and residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay last week. It was announced that 25 Serco employees at 5 Wing Goose Bay would be laid off, despite a two-year contract extension worth nearly $100 million.
“It was awful. It’s not a good day at work. First of all, the last week and a half…or so, we’ve been planning it, figuring out the impacts with the contract changes,” said Casey.
“You have a human element. I don’t lose sight of that. It’s not a pleasant thing to do, this is people we work with.”
Casey maintains that the layoffs came as a result of service reductions requested by DND. Some of the main areas affected include building maintenance, firefighting, and air traffic control.
After the layoffs come into effect March 28, there will be roughly 300 Serco employees remaining on base. According to Casey the layoff numbers are not finalized yet.
“…25 is the best estimate, it might vary by one (number).”
But Bernie Bolger, the local president for the Union of National Defense Employees, believes some very important positions are being lost.
“I’m very disappointed that the Department of National Defense made those cuts with an extension,” says Bolger.
“They’re still important positions, because they’re eliminating the ambulance and medevac services…you got the weather offices…so to say that it’s not required, that’s indifference.”
Seeking a solution
The union and the Town of Happy Valley Goose Bay are not yet accepting the layoffs as being inevitable. Bolger and Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook are planning to have meetings with the concerned parties to try and find a solution.
“We’ve gone to our politicians, we’ve met with the town council…we’re going to try to have a community effort to have this overturned,” said Bolger.
Mayor Snook said he was caught off guard with the layoffs and had no idea the cuts were coming.
“To be honest, I felt a little blindsided and immediately thought about all the different families that were affected,” said Snook.
“As a town we really…do have a role to play in advocacy and letting it be known to both federal and provincial governments that we don’t want to see any more layoffs in Goose Bay.”
“We can also help organize other partners and stakeholders that might want to join us in that group…”
An uncertain future
The 25 layoffs have renewed community concern that 5 Wing Goose Bay will, gradually, be closed down.
Bolger believes that the layoffs may just be the tip of the iceberg for the future of the base.
“That’s a signal for more to come. I believe that this is a signal because they’re reducing their maintenance…” said Bolger.
Meanwhile, CBC News is reporting that, according to DND briefing papers, 5 Wing is the nation’s “lowest priority base.”
The report also claims that it cost more to operate than an average base.
“The cost to support personnel in Goose Bay is more than five times the average for other Canadian locations — $129,500, compared to $24,000,” said the CBC report.