March 22, 2020
“Construction workers aren’t second-class citizens.”
– Andrew Mercier, executive director of the B.C. Building Trades Council
Construction workers are vital to maintaining critical infrastructure and must be kept safe, says BCBT
Construction workers from across B.C. say they are at risk because their working conditions do not allow them to follow basic health, hygiene and safety regulations.
Last week, the BC Building Trades Council issued a public call for construction workers to share their current working conditions amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, the council has been deluged with emails and phone calls from workers in every aspect of the sector: union, non-union, residential, industrial, commercial and institutional.
Many workers say they do not have access to adequate washroom facilities, running water, soap or hand sanitizer. Workers are telling the B.C. Building Trades that they continue to share tools and work together in small spaces that do not allow them to abide the recommendations for social-distancing from the provincial health officer.
Workers also report working alongside other workers who are visibly sick.
“Workers are pleading for help ― this is urgent,” said BC Building Trades executive director Andrew Mercier. “The Building Trades are focused on the facts on the ground. I have been in direct contact with the top brass at WorkSafeBC about this. We need more hand-washing stations. We need better social distancing. Regulations on paper mean nothing if they are not being enforced on the ground.
“We’re calling on WorkSafeBC to act immediately by enforcing compliance of their own health and safety regulations at these construction sites.”
The B.C. Building Trades is forwarding all the information it receives about sanitation issues on sites directly to senior WorkSafeBC executives.
“It doesn’t matter if you are union or non-union. If this is a problem on your work site, it is unacceptable. Tell us and we will continue to pressure WorkSafe to act. Health directives are helpful, but we need action. We know what the solutions are — we need compliance. Everyone has the right to refuse unsafe work, and we need to work together to provide a safe work site to get through this,” said Mercier.
“This situation could last months. In that time, the work of tradespeople will be critical. Tradespeople build and maintain roads, civil infrastructure, hospitals and grocery stores. We need to find safe ways to work so that we can keep the lights on and keep critical services running,” said Mercier. “Eventually, when we are on the other side of this, construction will be part of the stimulus needed to get our province back on its feet, and we are going to need healthy construction workers to get there.”
For more information:
Corry Anderson-Fennell, Director of Communications, 604-828-5232