March 18, 2020
Due to concerns over COVID-19, the BC Building Trades Council is calling for the scaling down of some major construction megaprojects in the province that house large numbers of workers in remote camps.
The council, which represents 35,000 unionized construction workers, has members at Site C and the LNG Canada project in Kitimat. It wants proponents of these projects to prioritize the safety of workers and the integrity of the health care systems in the areas that serve them.
“We are calling for remote-camp megaprojects in B.C. to be tooled down to all but essential or critical-path work,” said Andrew Mercier, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades Council. “We need to flatten the curve and alleviate pressure on the rural health care systems.”
LNG Canada already announced Monday it would gradually reduce the number of workers at its Kitimat project to half of current levels over the coming week, and if necessary, would reduce staff even further to just the levels required to maintain site security and environmental controls.
The council is calling for Site C to follow suit.
“Safety of workers is critical,” said Mercier. “We need contractors to find those safe ways to keep operating so that critical services ― air travel, health care, construction of vital infrastructure ― can take place and support economic recovery in the months ahead.”
Muskrat Falls, a hydro project in Newfoundland and Labrador, has also begun worker reductions.
“We realize that there will be a financial consequence to our members, but the health and safety of our workers is paramount. Once we get through this, we have no doubt that construction work will form part of the stimulus to get this province back on its feet—but we are going to need safe and healthy workers for that.”
Mercier added, “We echo the calls of the BC Federation of Labour and Building Trades unions across the country in calling on financial assistance and relief for working people in this difficult time. We will continue to monitor this situation, and work with proponents and our partners in the Construction Labour Relations Association to make sure that proper protocols are in place for critical or essential workers.”
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