Terrible Trade Move by Feds Could Cripple Canadian Shipbuilding, CAW says

October 5, 2010, 2:18 PM EST

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After a written promise to proceed tactfully on policy to support Canada's all-important shipbuilding industry, the Harper government's rash decision to kill a customs tariff will reverse years of progress, deter domestic investment and wipe out jobs at Canadian shipyards, said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

"The Harper government has sold-out Canada's domestic shipbuilding industry, full stop," Lewenza said responding to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's announcement on October 1 that Canada will eliminate a long-standing customs tariff on foreign-built ships.

"The Conservative government has just given international shipbuilders an overnight 25 per cent cost advantage when selling ships into our market, after former trade minister David Emerson notified our union this would not happen. It's shameful."

Canadian shipyard workers have for years been faced with extraordinary competitive pressures from heavily-regulated foreign shipbuilders, in countries like Norway, South Korea, Germany and the United States (through the Jones Act), said CAW National Marine Workers Council President Karl Risser who represents workers at the Halifax shipyards.

"Our members in the shipyards feel betrayed by the Harper government. They fail to see the strategic importance of maintaining a domestic shipbuilding sector," Risser said.

The CAW launched a successful campaign in recent years that effectively pushed the federal government to enact a Buy-Canadian policy for publicly-funded vessels. According to Risser, this policy has brought new work and tremendous job growth to hard-hit shipbuilding communities like Halifax.

"We quickly saw our workforce double in size once new investment was introduced, creating hundreds of new highly-skilled apprenticeship opportunities for young workers in the region," Risser said.


"Killing the import tariff not only gives overseas suppliers an additional advantage but it threatens to reverse all of the gains we've made in recent years by encourage shipbuilders to do this production and refit work elsewhere, right when the economy is showing signs of further decline."

The CAW represents nearly 3,000 workers in the Canadian shipbuilding industry.

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