Mervin Wiseman fights to save search and rescue centre
PSAC stewards engage in all sorts of activities that strengthen their union and communities. The recent announcement by the Harper government that it would be closing the St. John’s Marine Rescue Sub Centre vaulted Mervin Wiseman into action. Wiseman is the chief shop steward of PSAC local 90915 and a Maritime Search & Rescue Coordinator in St. John’s.
A seasoned union activist with 16 years of experience as a steward, Wiseman says he has seen nothing in those years that has compared to the intensity of the campaign to save the search and rescue centre. He is working with his local and his component (the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees) to fight the cuts.
“A group of us have been there working on behalf of the union to counter the government’s messages,” says Wiseman. “The bottom line is that it’s a very bad decision based on bad information.”
So far, Wiseman and his fellow activists have seen a few small victories. The initial statement from the government was that MRSC would be “closing” and “moving” to the joint rescue centre in Halifax. The latest spin is that MRSC is being “consolidated.” While the Conservatives appear to be softening the blow, it’s clear that they have heard the opposition to their plan loud and clear.
As Wiseman points out, the possible closure of MRSC means that the safety of one of the largest maritime jurisdictions in the world is at risk. Wiseman and his co-workers at the St. John’s Centre are responsible for covering some 90 per cent of the fishing vessel activity and the highest level of transatlantic shipping in Canada.
The impact on the marine industry – not to mention the public in general – is far reaching. Wiseman, others at UCTE and supporters in the community, say the cost alone will outstrip any savings. The existing 12 staff would be “work-force-adjusted” and approximately six new positions would have to be created in Halifax.
The expertise of the search and rescue staff in St. John’s is based on solid local knowledge which cannot be replicated in Halifax. MRSC works autonomously within the larger search and rescue region of Eastern Canada.
Municipal and provincial politicians are voicing support for the campaign as Wiseman makes the case in interviews with the media.
“Without the protection of the union my voice would have been silenced on this issue long ago,” says Wiseman. “In the department we are not permitted to speak publicly without employer approval, but we at PSAC-UCTE are taking this fight on for the greater good.”
Date Modified : 2011/08/12