OTTAWA, Feb. 27, 2012 /CNW/ - The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE) learnt on Friday February 24, 2012 that the Canadian Coast Guard has submitted the positions of the Search and Rescue coordinators in St. John's, NL and Quebec City, Quebec as essential positions to the safety and security of Canadians. These SAR positions are part of the overall designated essential services submitted to the Union for agreement. UCTE finds this hypocritical and shocking in light of CCG's unwavering insistence to closing the Marine Rescue Sub-Centres (MRSC) in these two locations.
The MRSC in St. John's NL handles the largest volume of maritime incident calls in Canada while the MRSC in Quebec City, Quebec is the only fluently bilingual centre in the country.
CCG has named the centres essential under the Public Service Labour Relations Act but are insisting and even accelerating the closures. The Act defines essential services as "a service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be, at any time, necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.?
"It's like they don't know what they are doing. On one hand the Union is being told that should there ever be a strike these services are essential - and we agree. But on the other hand, CCG is saying that these services are not so essential for the safety of Canadians in order to close them" said President Collins.
Additionally on the same day, UCTE learnt that as a result of their inability to recruit qualified staff, the CCG is considering changing the requirements of SAR Coordinators in order to staff the positions being moved to Halifax, NS and Trenton, ON from St. John's, NL and Quebec City, QC.
Currently, SAR coordinators are required to have a Watchkeeping Mate Certificate. CCG is considering substituting this criterion for the Maritime Naval Officer Certificate which requirements are less stringent.
"What are they thinking?" said Christine Collins, UCTE National President. "In no way is a Naval Officer Certificate equivalent to the Transport Canada Watchkeeping Mate certificate. SAR Coordinators are put through a series of rigorous testing that demonstrates an ability that is unparalleled. Naval Officer Certification is an inappropriate equivalent. It's like saying just because I go kayaking, I'm a qualified mariner."
The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE) is the national union representing Canadian Coast Guard Search and Rescue members.
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