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Injured camp workers raised safety concerns prior to bus crash, union says

‘This never should have happened. Workers told management that this was not safe,” UNITE HERE Local 40 said in a statement issued on Monday.
Coastal Gaslink map
This map shows the roughly 670-kilometre route of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline currently under construction in northern B.C. Parsnip Lodge is located in section 3 of the map, north of Prince George.

Camp services workers who were injured in a bus crash north of Prince George on Friday had raised safety concerns about travelling to and from camp prior to the accident, according to the union that represents them.

In a statement issued Monday, UNITE HERE Local 40 said 30 of their members were aboard a charter bus when it flipped along a forest service road while driving from Prince George to Coastal GasLink’s Parsnip Lodge.The workers are housekeepers employed by camp services contractor Horizon North, UNITE HERE Local 40 said.

“Our first concern is with our members and their families who have gone through a terrifying experience,” UNITE HERE Local 40 president Zailda Chan said in a statement issued Monday. “This never should have happened. Workers told management that this was not safe. We expect Horizon North to work with the Union to ensure workers’ health and safety is prioritized and not put at risk."

While all 18 injured workers have now been released from the hospital, many were traumatized by the experience, a spokesperson for UNITE HERE said in an email.

"In terms of injuries, some were heavily concussed, others suffered broken bones or experienced pain, like back pain. One worker described it as a near death experience that they’re replaying over and over in their heads," the email said.

Workers were given the choice to return to camp or go home. Many are now resting at home, the spokesperson said. Most of the workers are from the Edmonton area.

"At this point, no additional compensation has been provided to workers," the email said. 

The workers, mostly immigrant women from Somalia and Ethiopia, were moved out of the camp in March this year, right before Ramadan, the spokesperson said.

Horizon North “unilaterally moved all the housekeepers out of the camp and began bussing them to and from the site,” the union statement said. The workers were moved from the camp to a hotel in Prince George to make room for additional workers at the camp, the union spokesperson added.

“Workers are expected to travel up to four hours each day to and from camp, and along a forest service road, because they are no longer provided housing at the camp,” the union statement said. “The Union is calling on management to house Lodge workers onsite, as they are required to do in the collective agreement.”

Clause 15.02 of the union contract, provided by UNITE HERE, says that all workers not identified as local residents will be accommodated at Parsnip Lodge at the employer's expense.

UNITE HERE Local 40 has filed a grievance regarding the issue, and arbitration between the parties concluded on Thursday, the statement added.

A spokesperson for Horizon North could not be immediately reached for comment.

Coastal GasLink's Parsnip Lodge camp is located near the unincorporated community of Anzac, 117 km northeast of Prince George. Construction of the 670-km natural gas pipeline from west of Dawson Creek to Kitimat employed 5,513 workers as of the end of March 31, including 1,241 workers based out of Parsnip Lodge.