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Removing officers from ferry union won't improve service, says president

Excluding officers from the British Columbia Ferry and Marine Workers' Union appears to be driven by ideology and won't improve the company's service to passengers, said BCFMWU President Richard Goode.

"I don't see any benefit to the exclusions," said Goode. "The union believes the reason [BC Ferries gave] for excluding these members not only weakens the union but will not make BC Ferries a better run service."

The government-owned company has said it wants a management presence on the vessels. Goode said the company is welcome to put managers on the vessels, but it shouldn't be necessary to take members out of the union to do so.

On April 11 some 70 BC Ferries officers protested in downtown Victoria to draw attention to the issue. The exclusions are going ahead while they are under appeal to the Labour Relations Board. The West Coast Ships Officers Association estimates that 80 percent of the roughly 150 people offered excluded positions have refused to take the positions outside the union the company has offered them.

The Tyee reported that a spokesperson for the officers, Steve Neish, said being in the union gives them a layer of protection when they raise safety issues and that excluding them from the BCFMWU will over time make the ferries less safe.

Neish also said there is a lack of trust between the senior officers and BC Ferries.

"I believe we're starting to see a deterioration between the company and the union," said BCFMWU President Goode. The lines of communication remain open, but the exclusions have damaged the relationship, he said.

The company's contract with the union, imposed in a 2003 settlement mediated by Vince Ready, covers until 2012.

BC Ferries' customer satisfaction scores have been high in recent years largely because workers on the ship are working hard to provide good service, Goode said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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