$531 million submarine contract secures 200-plus Esquimalt jobs

Source: Times Colonist
By: Carla Wilson
Published: July 4, 2013

West Coast shipyard workers, including about 200 in Esquimalt, are celebrating a $531-million, five-year contract extension for maintaining and upgrading Canada’s submarines.

“It’s going to create more work for us, that’s a good thing,” George MacPherson, president of the Shipyard General Workers Federation, said Thursday.

The extension is for Babcock Canada Inc. on its initial 2008 contract to refit and maintain Canada’s Victoria-class submarines.

Subcontractor Victoria Shipyards and its partner companies have been carrying out submarine work for Babcock.

The extension includes options that could bring the contract duration to 15 years, with a potential top value of $1.5 billion, the Department of National Defence said in a statement.

Associate Defence Minister Kerri-Anne Findlay said, “This is also another important investment in skilled employment in Canada’s marine sector, supporting more than 400 high-quality, skilled jobs across Canada — over 200 in Esquimalt alone.”

All heavy maintenance work under the contract will take place at Victoria Shipyards, she said.

Work includes planning and managing the refit periods of the submarines, materiel acquisition, engineering services, plus comprehensive maintenance, repair, overhaul or upgrading of each submarine’s more than 200 systems.

Canada’s submarine fleet is being maintained and repaired at the Department of National Defence’s Fleet Maintenance Facility in Esquimalt and at Victoria Shipyards, working at the Esquimalt Graving Dock.

Shipyard tradespeople earn about $37 an hour, plus benefits, MacPherson said.

“It’s great news for the economy. There’s going to be lots going on.”

The announcement brings a promise of longer- term job security to shipyard workers.

“I think it is going to help a lot in the Victoria area because the mid-life refit on the frigates is going to be coming to an end within about 2 1Ú2 years so this will give them a bit of an extension and allow people to carry on. I think it is great news for the workers,” MacPherson said.

Victoria Shipyards is carrying out mid-life refits and extensive upgrading worth more than $351 million on five Halifax class frigates.

Canada’s shipbuilding and repair industry on both coasts has spent decades riding on a roller-coaster of uncertainty. To support the industry, the federal government has launched the national shipbuilding procurement strategy, valued at $35 billion.

Under that program, Seaspan Marine, owner of Victoria Shipyards and Vancouver Shipyards, won the right to negotiate $8 billion worth of contracts to build large non-combat ships for the federal government. The first steel is expected to be cut in North Vancouver next year.

The bulk of the work on the new ships will be carried out in North Vancouver, with the vessels brought to Victoria Shipyards for finishing and tests.