The union that represents the workers at Highlands Links wants the government to make potential operators who will offer jobs to the maintenance crew, according to the Chronicle-Herald:
Parks Canada said on Aug. 23 that it would be seeking a private operator for the golf course, ranked sixth in Canada on ScoreGolf’s best-in-the-country list.
Employees were sent letters telling them about the move at that time, said Chip Bird, Parks Canada’s field unit superintendent in Cape Breton.
Kennedy said the move to a private operator has put the workers, who include customer service staff, marshals and maintenance workers, in a “holding pattern.”
“It lets them know that there’s potential that their jobs will be disappearing, but that they’re not yet actually surplus.”
He said the union’s “initial default position” is that it wants Parks Canada to continue running the course.
The union is also trying to convince the government to give a higher ranking to bidders who say they will hire existing employees.
It is too early to say what might happen with the employees, Bird said. The request for proposals should be out later this month, he said, and close at the end of October or mid-November.
If a private operator doesn’t hire them, Bird said the employees would have priority status for other Parks Canada jobs in Cape Breton and elsewhere in Canada. He said he knows vacancies are coming up.
There are three year-round unionized employees and 19 seasonal workers, Bird said.
The government says the course lost up to $500,000 in each of the past few years, which begs the question why would anyone be interested in it? Some of that depends on the RFP, which comes out on Friday. Interestingly, the story says there are 19 full-time staff making an an average of $20.50 an hour. That would bring the labour cost of the maintenance budget to more than $800,000. It says even course marshals are paid union wages.
It is a credit to the staff that they’ve supported the restoration plan promoted by GM Graham Hudson. All accounts have had the staff very involved in the restoration. The bunker portion of the restoration is now nearly complete. However, any operator would surely have questions about tees and drainage, suggesting the government might have to invest additional funds to finish fairway drainage and reconstruct tees.
As for which companies might be interested, Cabot Links owner Mike Keiser told me he might be interested. Cabot managing partner Ben Cowan-Dewar said they’ll wait to see the RFP, which apparently comes out later this week.
Interestingly, for those wondering, the hotel has been connected to the province of Nova Scotia, but is still part of the federal government, which is why Keltic Lodge is part of the RFP.