The Canadian Auto Workers union says waterways in northern Ontario are about to become more dangerous.

The CAW represents workers at Thunder Bay's coast guard communications centre, which will be shut down by the federal government in 2014.

Union spokesperson Peter Fraser said there's no way the government can transfer the workload to radio operators in southern Ontario.

"Their workload is going to double, but their staff will not," Fraser said. "They're hard-pressed now just covering their area —  Lake Huron, Lake Erie, St. Clair River — we don't think it's possible."

The Coast Guard communications centre in Thunder Bay is one of 10 across the country that will be shut down. Fraser and eight others will lose their jobs.

The government said it plans to consolidate services in fewer centres with better equipment.

'Doesn't make any sense'

But Fraser questioned this new technology that will allow fewer people to do more work.

"That technology does not exist," he said. "It doesn't make any sense. You can only deal with one [call] at a time."

Lake Superior will be covered from centres located in either Sarnia or Prescott.


Thunder Bay Superior North NDP MP Bruce Hyer

The member of parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North called the pending closure of the Coast Guard communications centre in Thunder Bay a shame.

"They should be decentralizing government here in Canada, not centralizing it," Bruce Hyer said. "It's a real shame all around."

Lives in danger

Hyer said he is skeptical of the government's assertion that moving coast guard communications from Thunder Bay will improve service.

Fraser noted this past weekend there were two boaters in the Thunder Bay area who were in trouble. Additionally, there were thunder storm warnings that needed to be issued.

He said the same thing happened in Sarnia on the same day, and that all the workers in both communication centres were working "flat out."

Fraser said if this scenario were to happen after the closure of the communications centre, the two people whose lives were in danger would have to wait until there was a radio operator available to help them.