Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Winnipeg – The union representing Port of Churchill workers is calling on the federal government to finally recognize that Omnitrax will play no further role in the future of the Hudson Bay Railway, the Port of Churchill, and the communities affected by their negligence. Today, Omnitrax declared its intention to sue the federal government under NAFTA rather than live up to its duty to repair the rail line.
“It has been clear from day one that Omnitrax has abandoned its responsibility to Churchill,” said Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Prairie Region. “Waiting for lawsuits and counter suits to solve this issue will only mean more delay, more devastation and more hardship for the people of Churchill. The time is now to bring the Port and the railway into public hands.”
Similar to an airport authority, port authority status would allow community and government representatives to sit on the board and be accountable to various stakeholders, including municipalities and Indigenous communities, instead of being focused solely on corporate shareholders. The Minister of Transport has the authority under the Canada Marine Act to amend the list of regulated port authorities by Order in Council or regulation.
In addition to calling on the government to save the port by converting the Port of Churchill into a Port Authority under federal jurisdiction, the PSAC and the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE) want the Province of Manitoba to institute a fuel subsidy to offset the exorbitant gasoline prices that northern communities are facing, and sit down with all the partners in Churchill to help develop an economic plan that includes fixing the rail line and re-opening the valuable Port of Churchill for business again.
“Both the federal and provincial governments have had their heads in the sand, ignoring the fact that Omnitrax has made it clear it will not take the necessary steps to repair the rail line and get the Port of Churchill back to work,” said Teresa Eschuk, UCTE National Vice-President. “It’s time to kick Omnitrax out, and get to work with the real partners dedicated to the future of Churchill.”
PSAC represents more than 170,000 workers across Canada, including more than 60 workers at the Port of Churchill. UCTE is a component of the PSAC that represents members working at Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Nav Canada, and airports across the country.
Regional Communications Officer, PSAC Prairie Region