BCGEU welcomes independent Mount Polley investigation

Panel should also review ministry's oversight capacity says union

VANCOUVER, Aug. 18, 2014 /CNW/ - The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) issued a statement supporting an independent third party investigation into the Mount Polley mine disaster today, and urged the expert panel to consider the impact of staffing cuts on the ministry's ability to provide oversight of industry.

"The BCGEU welcomes an independent third party investigation of the Mount Polley disaster," said BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. "The public and our members need to know that the process will be open, transparent and fair.

"We are also encouraged that the dam safety inspections ordered by government will now require an independent third party review process. Until today, there has been no requirement for an independent review of these industry-created safety reports."

Deep cuts to government services beginning in 2002 resulted in steep declines in inspections, compliance and enforcement. Since 2000, Ministry of Energy and Mines staffing levels have dropped by more than 36 per cent.

"Our members do an incredible job with very limited resources," said Smith. "Even the minister himself noted that staffing levels in resource ministries are inadequate to properly serve the public."

In 2010, minister Bennett was quoted saying, "The fundamental problem facing the natural resource ministries is they're underfunded. We work the heck out of them [employees] and we don't have enough funds… to do the work that actually leads to the majority of revenue that comes into government."

The BCGEU, which represents Ministry of Energy and Mines workers will provide on-going representation and support for members affected by the investigation.

SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union

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Contact Chris Bradshaw at 604-369-8411