The shipbuilding industry on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts got a big boost from the federal government Oct. 19 with the announcement of two multi-billion dollar shipbuilding contracts that will create thousands of new maritime and construction jobs in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
“This is huge news for all shipyard workers and its effects will be felt throughout British Columbia,” said Vancouver Local 213 Business Manager Mike Flynn. Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd., won an $8 billion contract to build seven non-combat ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and Coast Guard, which is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs, including hundreds of Local 213 maritime positions.
The Canadian government committed to revamping its largely outdated federal fleet more than a year ago, setting up a task force to develop a long-term strategy to help revitalize the country’s shipbuilding industry. Federal planners say they wanted to avoid the traditional boom-and-bust cycle that has plagued the industry in the past by creating a steady supply of shipbuilding work spread out over a number of years. The newest projects are expected to take upwards of two decades to complete.
Getting Vancouver Shipyards ready for the job will require more than $200 million in infrastructure work, which means good jobs for inside wiremen as well.
“The news is really exciting for our membership,” said Local 213 Assistant Business Manager John Pesa. “I’m getting calls from people who want to join the IBEW just to work on this project.”
On the East Coast, Halifax’s Irving Shipbuilding Inc. won a $25 billion contract to build 21 combat-ready ships for the navy, bringing thousands of jobs to a province suffering from high unemployment.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that Nova Scotians who have left the province and are now in Alberta or other parts of the country can bring their skills home.
Irving Shipbuilding workers are represented by the Canadian Auto Workers, but the building trades—including the IBEW—will do the more than $100 million in preparatory infrastructure work.
“We’re talking almost $20 million in electrical work alone, which translates into a lot of man-hours,” says First District International Representative Cordell Cole, who services inside locals throughout Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
“I think we are looking at the end of outsourcing in the Canadian shipbuilding industry,” says Flynn. “By modernizing the Halifax and Vancouver shipyards, the military orders will help boost the civilian shipbuilding industry as well.” Local colleges are already beefing up their offerings in the maritime trades to meet the expected demand for highly skilled shipyard workers.
Work is expected to begin on the ships sometime in the next two to four years.