What Triggered Jobs Massacre at the Queen's Printer?

'They're not pro-union. They're not pro-Vancouver Island': fired book binder on BC Libs.

By Andrew MacLeod 3 Jul 2015 |

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, April 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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Out of a job: Peter Ingram worked at provincial government owned printer for 25 years.

About 30 unionized workers in June had their last day at the Queen's Printer, terminated in a move one former employee says disrupts many people's lives and won't save the government money.

"These were government jobs that were good jobs, paying mortgages and medical and that," said Peter Ingram, a book binder who'd worked at the provincial government owned printer for 25 years and who is now out of work.

The Queen's Printer is a Crown corporation that for 155 years has printed key government documents such as legislation, budgets, the public accounts and provincial exams, many of the jobs requiring confidentiality. The employees were members of the union Unifor and were paid around $25 an hour.

Last October the government announced the plan to close the printing operations at the Queen's Printer while keeping some staff to broker print jobs to private sector printers. The move came out of the core review process aimed at finding ways to save money.

"It's not going to be a money saver, we know that," Ingram said. Frequently the staff at the Queen's Printer were called on for rush jobs, sometimes at odd hours, and did a lot of "clearing up screw ups" by either fixing or shredding confidential publications that included errors, he said.

That kind of service will be pricey from private companies, Ingram said.

'They're not pro-union'

The move is the result of the BC Liberal government's ideology, rather than anything practical, Ingram said. "They're not pro-union. They're not pro-Vancouver Island. It's their way of shutting down another government entity."

In October when the minister then responsible, Andrew Wilkinson, announced what he characterized as the "modernization" of Queen's Printer, a government statement said "the growth of electronic publishing and digital information has reduced the demand for government printing."

The federal government outsourced its printing operations more than a decade ago and doing so in B.C. would be a "good business opportunity" for the industry, the statement said.

A spokesperson for the ministry of technology, innovation and citizens' services, now headed by Amrik Virk, said in an email that as of July 2 seven people from the Queen's Printer had found work in other parts of the government and 20 had left the government. The 20 who have left are eligible to apply as internal applicants for government jobs, she said.

Revenues at the Queen's Printer have declined significantly over the past five years and "most of the equipment, including the older mechanical offset presses that use printing plates and inked rubber are nearing the end of their lifespan," the spokesperson said.

'We still all have mortgages'

Ingram said the government still has large printing needs and has been shifting work to other departments such as BC Mail Plus. "It's just a slide of cards is all it is."

Printing equipment from Queen's Printer was auctioned off at low prices, in some cases to companies that will now do the work, he said. What couldn't be auctioned was trashed, he said, including a 40 inch Miller Press. Ink conditioner that costs $100 a bottle went straight into the garbage, he said.

"We had some of the state of the art machines there," Ingram said, noting the Queen's Printer had two machinists on staff who kept the equipment in very good condition. "You're not going to replace them with anything better."

But it's the impact on the people who worked there, none of whom were offered retraining, that really bothers him, he said. "We still all have mortgages," he said. The government showed "no respect for the people who were there."

The government eliminated 30 good jobs that paid a base rate between $25 and $29 an hour plus benefits, he said, adding it seems the government wants everyone to earn minimum wage and have to beg for food.  [Tyee]

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