The president of the union representing workers at Canadian Forces Base 5 Wing Goose Bay says the company contracted to operate the base is cutting corners and overworking staff.
Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, told CBC News he'll be asking the office of the auditor general to look at how Serco Canada Inc., the company that delivers base services, is managing operations.
"They're not running it very effectively and it's not good for the workers at the base and it's not good for this community," he said.
Aylward said the number of staff at the base has gone from more than 250 workers to about 150. According to Aylward, about 40 of those layoffs are recent.
During his visit to the base, he said, workers said staffing levels are inadequate.
"Every single one of them told me, 'We don't have enough staff, we simply don't have enough staff to do the work that needs to be done on the base.' So that's a big concern," he said.
Aylward said Serco has laid off Public Service Alliance of Canada members and subcontracted the work out to companies like BGIS without explaining why.
Serco contract worth up to $1.5 billion over 20 years
In 2021, the federal government awarded Serco a 10-year contract, valued at $694 million, to provide services on the base. In a statement, a Department of National Defence spokesperson said two five-year extension options means the value of the contract could reach up to $1.5 billion over 20 years.
"This contract is expected to sustain approximately 250 local private sector jobs over the course of the contract, but it is up to Serco Canada on how they allocate resources to deliver contract requirements," said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson said the federal government uses private companies for facilities maintenance in order to allow Department of National Defence and Canadian Air Forces personnel to focus on "core functions."
The spokesperson said it would be inappropriate for the Department of National Defence to comment on "dealings with unions that represent private sector employees."
Serco vice-president Alan Hill did not agree to an interview request but provided a statement saying the company is proud of its employees and its role in the community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
"We pride ourselves in the open communications we have with our employees and the union and continue to work with them on any issues," said the statement.
According to the federal government, the contract includes a $100-million Indigenous benefits plan, used for training workers who identify as Indigenous and engaging with Indigenous businesses.
David Martin, a worker at the base and National Indigenous Peoples Circle representative for the Atlantic region, said employees have yet to see evidence of that benefits plan.
"We haven't seen anything yet. It's been over a year, things should start moving and nothing has been happening yet," he said.
Martin said his main concern also involves overworking and understaffing.
"We need more people," he said.