British Columbia

BC Ferries $300 gift card for employees 'ill-timed', say critics

A BC Ferries program to give workers $300 gift cards to encourage them to stay healthy is raising concerns with critics who say the public and the government are already paying too much for ferry service.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation says rate hikes and subsidies are already too high

BC Ferries is offering employees incentives to stay fit and safe 2:29

A BC Ferries program to give workers $300 gift cards to encourage them to stay healthy is raising concerns with critics who say the public and the government are already paying too much for ferry service.

The publicly-owned company is planning to award as many as 3,000 employees with cards that will be redeemable at sports and recreation retailers or used to reimburse fitness centre fees.

The perk will cost BC Ferries about $900,000 and is meant to recognize employees for an "excellent safety record achieved in the past fiscal year."

Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for BC Ferries, says employee injury claims cost the company $3.5 million in 2006.

"Last year, those costs were reduced to $800,000, so we're taking some of those savings," she said.

"I think its a proven fact... that employees that are healthy and fit are less likely to injure themselves and less likely to take time off work due to sickness or injury. We do see this as an investment in our best assets, our most important asset which is our employees."

Marshall says this new perk won't be available for management.

Employee perk 'a terrible decision'

Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesman Jordan Bateman says the move is ill-timed, especially considering the recent rate hikes.

"I'm very disappointed, it's a terrible decision," said Bateman.

"BC Ferries has raised rates by four per cent and took nearly $22 million from the government, and then broke their arm patting themselves on the back for making a profit. It's a fake profit built on a subsidy and a rate increase."

In its 2013 year-end financial report B.C. Ferries reported it made a "modest profit" of $15.5 million during the last fiscal year, reversing a $9-million loss the previous year.