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Help For Displaced Aquaculture Workers

Economics +1 more

CANADA - Several British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) members working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands in aquaculture regulation in Courtenay have been told their positions will not be part of a new organiSational structure that will take effect on April 1, 2011.

The new structure flows from a 2009 British Columbian (BC) Supreme Court ruling that marine finfish aquaculture on the coast of BC is a matter of federal, not provincial, jurisdiction.

On Friday, representatives from the ministry presented aquaculture workers with a new organisational chart for the Aquaculture and Commercial Fisheries Branch. Twelve workers are not included in the new organisation; 10 are BC BCGEU members working in Courtenay and two are Professional Employees Association (PEA) members.

"These types of changes are very stressful for workers," says BCGEU president Darryl Walker. "But fortunately this isn't the end of the road for affected members."

Redundancy notices have not been issued to affected members. The ministry has indicated that it will work with the workers to find new job placements within Agriculture and Lands or in other ministries.

Members who are not placed before November 2010 may face 'workforce adjustment' at that time. During this process, members are protected by employment security provisions under the master collective agreement.

The agreement establishes a job placement process with time lines and union oversight and ensures that seniority is a determining factor in placement priority. Every impacted member must receive at least one reasonable offer of employment in government.

The BCGEU will work with the ministry to find job placements for affected members while continuing to push for a formal transfer agreement between the provincial and federal governments.

"We've said before that the fairest and most sensible way forward is for Ottawa to agree to a formal employee transfer process, so provincial aquaculture workers have the option of moving to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans," says Mr Walker.

"We've successfully negotiated these types of agreements before and we will continue to work with the provincial and federal governments to reach an agreement for our members."

So far the federal government has declined to negotiate a former employee transfer agreement with the province, saying that new federal aquaculture positions will go to open competition.

Whether a formal transfer agreement is negotiated or not, the union's top priority will be to ensure that affected members are provided with fair and suitable employment options.