Nfld. & Labrador

Layoffs at 5 Wing Goose Bay creating unease, uncertainty

The loss of 25 jobs at 5 Wing Goose Bay this week has again left many questioning Ottawa's long-term plans for the base.

Military says job losses linked to reduced low-level flight training

The loss of 25 jobs at 5 Wing Goose Bay this week has again left many questioning Ottawa's long-term plans for the base.

The employees worked for Serco, the company that provides non-military services for 5 Wing. The layoffs include firefighters, building maintenance workers, two air traffic positions, a weather forecaster, as well as cleaning and administrative staff.

They're happening on the heels of a two-year contract extension for Serco at the base.

The military says Serco let the workers go mainly due to a decrease in flight training in Labrador.

"The Royal Canadian Air Force and 5 Wing remain focused on 5 Wing's mission to operate the Goose Bay airfield, support Canada's sovereignty through NORAD, and the provision of an outstanding venue for military training," said DND public affairs officer Dave Bowen in a statement.

"With this in mind, the contract has been updated to better reflect actual and ongoing operations and training that take place at 5 Wing, and to ensure best value for money for Canada and Canadians. The requirement for some services has been reduced, mainly reflecting the substantially decreased use of 5 Wing for low-level flight training by Canada's allies.

"5 Wing is mindful of the need to remain efficient and effective within current funding levels. The new contract was developed with this in mind."

Baseless concerns

5 Wing Cmdr. Michael Ward insisted concerns about the future of the base are unfounded. In fact, he said there are more training exercises happening at the base this year over last.

However, Ward wouldn't comment on what will happen when the new contract with Serco expires in March 2016.

Meanwhile, the Union of National Defence Employees, which represents Serco staff, says the layoffs will also affect operations at the Goose Bay airport.

Local spokesman Bernie Bolger says the base will lose paramedics and its ambulance service as of April 1, which means not as many planes will be able to land at the airport.

"Large aircraft now, overseas aircraft with medical or other issues like mechanical, will not be able to divert to Goose Bay because we haven't got the capabilities," said Bolger.

The Goose Bay airport authority says it can't comment yet because it does not have enough details about the cuts.

The province's intergovernmental affairs minister, Steve Kent, said news of the layoffs this week was troubling, adding Ottawa isn't living up to its repeated promises to strengthen the base.

"The contract that the federal government has entered into with Serco is only a two-year contract, so that doesn't really speak to the long-term commitments to the base," Kent said. "It's time for the Government of Canada to honour those commitments, to invest in the Canadian military presence in the North, particularly at 5 Wing Goose Bay."

Kent said he'll raise his concerns when he meets with federal ministers next month.