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Transportation and Works
August 30, 2010

Minister Awaits Decision on Essential Service Designation for Shipment of Goods

In light of the recent labour disruption at the Port of Montreal, the Honourable Tom Hedderson, Minister of Transportation and Works, appeared at a hearing of the Canada Industrial Relations Board on Friday to argue that the shipment of goods to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador through that port, should be designated as an essential service under the Canada Labour Code.

"The recent labour disruption at the Port of Montreal was a wake-up call for many with respect to just how vulnerable our province is to adverse affects caused by work stoppages at that port," said Minister Hedderson. "Essential items such as medication and medical supplies, aircraft de-icing and water treatment chemicals, foodstuffs and other materials come into this province through the Port of Montreal."

In appearing before the board, the minister indicated that he was hopeful that the board would see that by virtue of the islandís geography, it is uniquely and detrimentally affected by any labour disruptions at the Port of Montreal, and asked the board to designate the shipment of goods to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador via Oceanex Inc. as an essential service.

Minister Hedderson noted that a full 50 per cent of the goods shipped to the island of Newfoundland arrive via Oceanex Inc. through the ports of Montreal and Halifax. The other 50 per cent arrives via Marine Atlantic. Currently, sufficient capacity does not exist in the short term to allow for a meaningful and effective flow of goods to the island through any alternate means.

"Shipments to the island of Newfoundland through the Port of Montreal account for only three per cent of the freight traffic through that port," said Minister Hedderson. "We believe that designating the shipment of this small fraction of the portís freight as essential would do nothing to affect the bargaining position of either the union or the employerís association and would ensure that goods essential to the health and safety of people in this province are not put in jeopardy. I feel that we put forward a strong position on behalf of the province, and along with the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, I eagerly await the boardís decision in this matter."

The board is expected to announce its decision on Wednesday.

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Media contact:
Roger Scaplen
Director of Communications
Department of Transportation and Works
709-729-3015, 697-5267

2010 08 30                                                   4:00 p.m.

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