George Harris Hees (Minister of Transport)
Hon. George H. Hees (Minister of Transport):
Mr. Speaker, I am going to make an announcement which I feel sure will be very well received by all members of the house. Before making it I should like to say that I received representations on this matter from all the members from Prince Edward Island, the hon. member for Colchester-Hants (Mr. Kennedy), and several other hon. members who have spoken to me about this matter. This is a press release issued today by the management of Canadian National Railways.
Following a meeting of senior operating officials from all regions in Canada, Canadian National Railways announced today that a supplementary winter work program would go into effect immediately in an effort to avoid any further reduction of employment on its Canadian lines during the winter months. This decision was made in response to an appeal by the federal government,
which is being directed to industry generally, including all railways, to the effect that they take special responsibility for their own work forces during this winter period when unemployment normally develops.
The management of Canadian National Railways deems it in the national interest to respond to the request of the government by embarking on work programs aimed at keeping the regular labour force employed on work that would not normally be undertaken in winter months, or which would be deferred until traffic earnings justify it.
While this may add somewhat to the cost of such work, and as well make it more difficult to reverse the deficit which appeared in the 1957 operations of Canadian National Railways, nevertheless the circumstances are such that management believes it is prudent to avoid, as far as possible, the disorganizing effects of massive short-term unemployment during this winter season. Consequently all supervisory officers have been directed to explore ways and means of organizing supplementary work programs in local areas throughout Canada, with the objective that Canadian National Railways will not contribute to further winter unemployment.
The supplementary work programs will not mean new hirings, but are of course being designed to keep the existing labour force employed. These programs will require the interested co-operation of the various labour groups, and must be sufficiently flexible to meet the varying needs of local areas. Consequently they will be under the direction of local and regional supervisory officers.
The supplementary work programs now being put into effect will be in addition to the accelerated works programs on capital account which were announced by Canadian National Railways on December 20 to provide employment for some 600 men on projects estimated to cost $3,500,000. This was made possible through advance approval by the government of a portion of the 1958 budget of the railway.
No estimate can be made of the cost of the new programs now being organized, but the nature of the work will, for the most part, be a charge to operating expense.
Subtopic: ANNOUNCEMENT OF SUPPLEMENTARY WINTER WORK PROGRAM