Layoffs at General Dynamics' Edmonton plant anger NDP’s Duncan

EDMONTON - Thirty workers in Edmonton have been laid off by a company that was awarded a $1-billion government contract to upgrade light-armoured vehicles for the Canadian Forces.

Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan said employees at General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada's plant in Edmonton were escorted from the building last week as a result of the job cuts, and on Wednesday questioned Minister of Public Works and Government Services Rona Ambrose about it in the House of Commons.

In October, Ambrose participated in a high-profile announcement about the contract, which the government said would sustain 110 jobs at General Dynamics' support-services facility in Edmonton.

Without being specific, the MP for Edmonton-Spruce Grove, confirmed during question period that layoffs had occurred, and later Wednesday a spokesman for the company acknowledged temporary cutbacks have taken place.

Ken Yamashita, manager of corporate affairs for General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, said the layoffs are unrelated to the project to upgrade 550 LAV III combat vehicles. Workers who were laid off are expected to be rehired when the upgrading program begins later this year or early in 2013, Yamashita said.

Work is to be spread out between the company's facilities in Edmonton and London, Ont.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said Wednesday he had been alerted about impending layoffs at General Dynamics' local plant. As Duncan did in Ottawa, he questioned whether the government had done its due diligence before awarding the contract.

"What this goes to is the whole issue of what the government is doing, and how they are giving away taxpayers dollars," said Duncan, who is a New Democrat. "I thought the response I received (from Ambrose) was stunning.

"There should be accountability when it comes to taxpayers' dollars. It is our money."

Yamashita said the work that is currently being done in Edmonton is preparation for the upgrading project.

"All this is a temporary dip in employment," he said. "The jobs for the project are secure."

Edmonton Journal, Wed May 30 2012
Byline: Marty Klinkenberg

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