Union adds voice to call for moratorium on fracking

One of Canada's largest unions is calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

Unifor says it has concerns about worker safety and long-term sustainability

One of Canada's largest unions is calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

Unifor has 300,000 members and was formed when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.

Atlantic director Lana Payne says her union represents more than 20,000 workers in the energy sector and has been discussing and developing a national energy strategy which led to the decision about fracking.

"The position that we did end up with is that we would call for a Canada-wide ban on unconventional fracking until such time that environmental and safety concerns could be adequately addressed," Payne said.

Payne says she shares the concerns many New Brunswickers have expressed about the impact fracking could have on the environment and the water.

But she says Unifor is also worried about the safety of workers.

"We have been aware of some studies in the U.S. that show implications in terms of what workers are breathing in, in terms of the work there, and it is a bit of a gold rush type of industry at the moment."

Payne says with this kind of an approach, worker safety is often not at the top of the list of priorities.

"We virtually have very little regulation or laws to deal with fracking in the country."

Over the weekend Premier David Alward argued the most successful provinces in the country are the ones that are taking advantage of their natural resources, which is what New Brunswick also has to do.

Of course we want to see job creation but at what cost and at what long term implications for the safety of the people in that industry and for the safety of the citizens of New Brunswick.- Lana Payne, Atlantic director Unifor

"We need people to say yes because there is a consequence if people don't say yes," he said outside the annual meeting of the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative party.

"It means our young people, instead of choosing whether they want to stay here in New Brunswick or not, they're having to choose to look for work elsewhere."

N.B. doesn't need jobs 'at any cost'

Payne says Unifor is finalizing a sustainable energy strategy for Canada and after her research she doesn't believe shale gas fits in.

"We're building infrastructure around an energy source that isn't exactly the greenest that we could be looking at and certainly not the most long term source of energy," Payne said.

She is sympathetic to the challenges Alward is facing and understands he is doing whatever he can to encourage economic development, but Payne says Canadians don't want jobs at any cost.

"We have to be very careful getting into these new types of energy production that really is just, in the end, it's about energy companies making a lot of profit and leaving behind quite a mess."

Payne says she has heard from many workers in New Brunswick who are also concerned about the economic troubles the province is facing.

"But they also understand that they live there and they want to be able to have a good place to live."

"Of course we want to see job creation but at what cost and at what long term implications for the safety of the people in that industry and for the safety of the citizens of New Brunswick."

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