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Province/ONTC offer early retirement to 200 commission workers to cut costs

Minister wants ONTC to finalize an agreement with TELUS

Nugget Staff

Thursday, March 04, 2004 - 09:00

Local News - The Ontario government has cleared the way for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission to offer early retirement for 200 employees as a way to trim costs at the ailing Crown corporation.

At the same time, the government isn't offering guarantees the jobs will all be replaced, but some may be filled to meet the commission's business operations such as the $81-million GO Transit contract announced last week.

The commission employs about 600 in North Bay.

Brian Stevens, president of CAW Local 103, said he will fight to keep as many jobs as possible.

He said there's a fixed number of people needed to maintain the ONR's contracts and those skilled workers will have to be replaced.

Stevens also said everyone eligible for early retirement won't necessarily take that option.

Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci couldn't guarantee the jobs would be replaced.

He said the commission is in poor fianancial condition and the early retirements are needed to get the Crown corporation back on track.

"After three years of failed privatization efforts, the ONTC has mounting financial problems and has made no progress on better serving Northern Ontario communities," he said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"This wasteful inaction ends today." said Bartolucci. "We are stopping the previous government's plans to privatize the ONTC and we are setting out a bold new course that will bring long-needed sustainability, certainty and openness to current and future planning for

the organization."

The provincial government is approving the ONTC's request to provide an early retirement offer to more than 200 eligible employees.

The early retirements provide an opportunity for employees and helps the organization begin to chart a more viable future, he said.

The government has also asked the ONTC to finalize an agreement with TELUS to provide enhanced telecommunications management services and expertise to O.N.Telcom.

This strategic alliance will result in better service and product selection for Northeastern Ontario and will strengthen O.N.Telcom's commercial viability.

The government has also directed the ONTC to develop a long-term strategy aimed at protecting jobs, and securing services that are competitive, safe, reliable and responsive to customers, residents and businesses.

"These measures, together with a recent successful ONTC bid on a contract for GO Transit refurbishment, will mean a much brighter future for the ONTC," said Bartolucci. "A renewed ONTC will be able to drive economic and community development opportunities for the region, while providing efficient, competitive services. The ONTC will remain in public hands, jobs will be protected and services will be improved and Ontarians will continue

to see real, positive change from our government."

Background on ONTC:

The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) is an Operational Enterprise Agency of the Ontario government. It plays a vital role in promoting community economic development in Northeastern Ontario by providing and supporting critical communications and transportation services to widely dispersed communities and businesses in the Highway 11 corridor.

The ONTC's commercial operations consist of O.N.Telcom, Ontario Northland Railway (ONR) rail freight services, the Cochrane Station Inn, bus services and rental properties. Its non-commercial operations consist of the Northlander, Polar Bear and Little Bear trains, and the Moosonee barge.

O.N.Telcom is a full-service telecommunications carrier providing local and long distance telephone, private line voice and data, advanced network, e-business, Internet and cellular telephone services. Its territory covers a 200,000 square kilometre area in Northeastern Ontario.

The measures announced today are immediate steps necessary to address the ONTC's deteriorating financial condition and uncertain future as a Crown corporation. The voluntary early retirement offer, for all qualifying ONTC employees, allows the organization to begin to chart a viable future and respond to new opportunities. There are approximately 200 eligible employees.

The ONTC has been examining the potential of an alliance arrangement for O.N.Telcom services. They will now conclude an agreement with TELUS Services Partnership to provide enhanced telecommunications management services and expertise to enhance O.N.Telcom's existing local network and services. This five-year alliance is projected to result in a significant improvement in O.N.Telcom's financial position.

The government has also asked the ONTC to develop a long-term strategy so that its services are better positioned to:

— support and promote Northeastern Ontario economic development, job

creation and community sustainability;

— support, promote and enhance linkages and clustering between

communities within the region and between Northeastern Ontario and other


— deliver price-competitive transportation and telecommunications

services that are safe, reliable and responsive to customers, residents and

businesses in Northeastern Ontario; and

— deliver services in a financially efficient and effective manner

with an objective of self-sustainability.

ID- 60219

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