ESPERANCE — Federation President Nan Bacco has assured colonists that relief aid will be provided as the Federation Transport Union strike entered its third week, but those in the outer colonies are doubtful of the president and the Federation’s convictions.
“The Federation does not back out of its obligations,” said Bacco in a speech from the Palais de la Concorde in Paris, Earth, earlier this week. “I want to assure all our citizens, particularly those colonists now affected by this strike, that we stand with you, and help is on the way.”
In a major blow to the Bacco administration, the Federation Transport Union voted to go on strike on the eve of 2392. All shipping and transit runs were immediately suspended, including those of 812 major shipping carriers.
The president had met with Transport Union leaders before the vote, delivering a last minute appeal to avert the strike, which had been called for by union members after the latest Nausicaan pirate attack left 24 dead.
“Too little, too late,” said union member Captain Chana, who operates his own transport ship. “Every day, people are dying out there, and what is the Federation Council and the president doing about it? Nothing.”
Last year, the Colonial Coalition, a group of seven historic Federation colonies that line one of the most distant borders of the Federation, submitted an open letter to the Federation Council, criticizing the increase in foreign aid, particularly after the Hobus Supernova and the destruction of Romulus and Remus in 2387.
The Colonial Coalition called instead for greater resources to be spent on the Federation’s member worlds and colonies.
“For too long, we have been told by our leaders that we have a duty to protect those in need and comfort the downtrodden,” they wrote. “They ask us to empathize with the plight of the Romulans, the Cardassians, and even the Vaadwaur, who attempted an invasion of the Federation, killing over a thousand civilians and Starfleet personnel on Deep Space 17 alone. Yet what of our leaders’ duty to serve the people who elected them? Each of them have sworn an oath as a civil servant to uphold the Federation Charter, a document which promises ‘in the equal rights of members of planetary systems large and small’ and ‘justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of interstellar law .’ Judged by that standard, then our leaders have failed us, and we implore them to refocus their empathy on their own people.”
Meanwhile, Terra Novan councilman Kevin Steiner, who has made no secret of his intentions to challenge Bacco in the upcoming presidential election, has led the charge for Starfleet to divert from other tasks and directly assist the outer colonies.
“It just doesn’t make any sense, now does it?” Steiner asked rhetorically in an interview with FNS reporter Vian Nova. “We have private citizens risking their lives in their own ships just to ensure supplies can get to their homes, while this president and Starfleet Command continues to send our most advanced ships halfway across the galaxy looking at nebulae, black holes, and protomatter clouds. Where are our priorities?”
Although Starfleet launched Operation Safe Harbor, an anti-piracy effort, last year to provide additional protection along major shipping routes, colonists have complained that too few ships have been assigned to the task force, and the ones that have—many of which haven’t been upgraded since the Dominion War, nearly two decades ago—are too slow.
The colonists’ frustration is shared by some members of Starfleet who have been assigned to the operation.
“It’s always the same story,” said Lieutenant JG Faryul Nishal, a nurse aboard the USS Montreal. “We get a distress call in the area, and by the time we get there, the pirates have fled like palukoo into the crevices. We need more ships out here or faster ones—or both, honestly.”
Neither is likely to happen, however, at least according to one Starfleet insider. While Starfleet Public Affairs officer Commander A.J. Ciaravolo reassured journalists in San Francisco last month that reports of a personnel shortage were “exaggerated,” Professor Uehn, who recently retired after teaching history for forty years at Starfleet Academy, claims that recruitment is at its lowest levels in decades.
“Young people have many more options now if they want to see the stars or venture away from home,” she said. “Civilian starship technology has just accelerated in the past decade alone. If you want to fly on the fastest or most advanced ship out there, it’s not necessarily a Starfleet one.”
With fewer applicants to the academy, some commentators have suggested lowering admission standards, but Starfleet Command is reportedly reluctant to do so.
“Frankly, I don’t think they have much of a choice,” said Dr. Keahvon of the Cerberus Group, a San Francisco think tank. “With all of the recent humanitarian crises and natural disasters that have occurred, Starfleet is already stretched pretty thin as it is. We’re looking at a fleet smaller than it’s ever been since the 2330s.”
One revolutionary solution, scoffed at by many critics earlier when it was suggested last year by business tycoon Tyson Holt, is for the Federation to begin employing private starship operators to augment Starfleet operations, or in some cases, take over those duties entirely. Holt argues that not only could private contractors perform the same jobs as Starfleet, but they could also do them better.
“A good friend of mine, Mona Agrawal, operates a small fleet of transports out of Esperance. Been at it for twenty years,” said Holt from his corporate offices on Coridan. “And you’re telling me she doesn’t know the area just as well—if not better—than some outsider riding in on some museum ship with an arrowhead on the side?”
The transport union strike might just give Holt the opportunity to test his idea. Shortly after President Bacco’s assurances to the colonies, the Palais de la Concorde reportedly held a holo-conference with Holt himself. Holt declined to comment on the nature of their conversation.
Whatever the solution, those left beyond the reach of Starfleet and the Federation’s core worlds urge that the president and council members work quickly.
“At the end of the day, we’re Federation citizens, too,” said colonist Eth’nalli, a school teacher on Ketar V. “We deserve the same protection and attention as any other citizen in the Federation.”
Reporting for the Federation News Service from Star Station Esperance, with additional reporting from Sol Sector FNS correspondent T’Vas.
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