Under cloudy skies, with the imposing Cape Mudge lighthouse looming in the background, former lightkeeper Jim Abram vowed to keep fighting for lightkeepers – the eyes and ears on the ocean.
Abram,with his family by his side, returned to his former workplace last Friday morning to accept a lifetime membership in the B.C. lightkeepers union, a union he helped form in 1994.
“We felt we were not being properly represented by the people we were working with, so we started our own local,” said Abram after being presented with a commemorative plaque by union secretary-treasurer Glenn Borgens. “We had our first meeting in Victoria and they told us we’d all be fired. Since then we’ve been fighting and we’ve been fighting hard. We had to do it four times and if we have to do it again, I’ll be there.”
Just three years ago, Abram took up the battle and played a pivotal role in convincing then-Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to abandon the federal government’s plan to decommission B.C.’s 27 lighthouses located along the coast. Abram argued that automation could not provide the same level of protection for mariners as a lightkeeper.
In his current position as regional director for Quadra Island, Abram is continuing the fight – this time to stop the federal government from cutting staff on watch at all five B.C. marine centres. Abram’s motion to petition the government to keep current staffing levels was originally brought to the Strathcona Regional District Board and will be in front of the Union of B.C. Municipalities delegates in Victoria later this week.
“We feel you’ve gone way above and beyond,” Borgens said in acknowledging Abram last week. “So we thought we’d give you something that’s lasting. We want to present this to you with a huge amount of thank you’s. We’re proud to have you as one of our own and now you’re one of ours forever.”
Abram said although he’s now retired from the industry, he will continue to promote lightkeepers and the invaluable service they provide.
“This is a service everyone has to understand is irreplaceable,” Abram said. “We’re one of the few nations that still appreciates the fact that lightkeepers deliver the most affordable and efficient service to mariners who come from all around the world to be on our coast. I’ve been very proud to be a member of such an organization and it’s going to stay with me all of my life.”
Abram acknowledged his wife, Wendy, son Jesse and daughter Melissa for sticking with him and supporting his work, which demanded a lot of time away from home.
“They’re all lightkeepers to me,” he said. “They grew up with me at this lightstation.”
As the event wrapped up, Borgens announced he had another surprise for Abram. Borgens returned from his car with an old stamp concealed in a small plastic bag.
“This is the first stamp of Local 20232,” Borgens explained. “I’m not sure if it still works, but it’s yours to keep.
“Welcome back to the family forever.”