The inland ferry services were contracted out under the previous BC Liberal government. As operating costs have increased, the employers have been padding their profit margins rather than investing in retention, training and succession planning. As a result, there are not enough local, qualified employees to meet Transport Canada safe sailing requirements on all sailings needed by the community.
Also, when privatization began, contract between government and the ferry employers failed to include mandatory guidelines around successorship and training. These guidelines are essential to ensuring a sustainable supply of qualified employees. We raised this with government and they assured us they would include these guidelines in the August 2018 contract. But they did not. As a result, the employer is free to do away with trainings and succession plans, which is exactly what they have done, and instead directing funds to their profit margin instead.
To keep working in the community which they call home, employees are expected to not only fund their own training but take time off to do so, putting them at real risk of seniority loss or even termination. Given the years of training needed to be a marine professional, this lack of investment by the employer sends the message to employees that they are not valued. Many employees struggle with the decision to stay or move away.
Furthermore, as vessels are upgraded, the technology changes and the job of the ferry workers changes, too. Without training, workers cannot operate the ferries, and the ferries cannot run. Failure of the employer to fulfill their responsibility of training has put the ferries at risk of not running.
Finally, succession planning: There is nuanced local knowledge held by experienced employees about how to safely navigate Kootenay Lake. Without a succession plan or training set up by the employer, that local knowledge is not passed down to upcoming employees, and the service, vessels and area suffer