New Brunswick

Construction workers at Bathurst hospital don't feel protected against COVID-19

Construction site workers at the Bathurst Regional Hospital are worried about their health and safety, alleging their employer hasn't done enough to protect them against COVID-19. 

Contract workers worry they're too close to each other while on the job

Construction workers at The Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst are worried about their safety on the job throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Radio-Canada)

Construction site workers at the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst are worried about their health and safety, alleging their employer hasn't done enough to protect them against COVID-19. 

The employees building a new wing at the hospital have said it's impossible to always maintain the two-metre distance that health officials call for.

And there are few bottles of hand sanitizer on hand. 

"In the hallways, we all work together on the same floors," said Franco Huard, one of the workers. 

"There is a pile of people who are there, then we have no choice but to pass each other. We are always close. We have no choice."

Money or family?

There are about 90 people at the construction work site, and many of them believe the work should be suspended for public health and safety reasons, Huard said.

Huard said said he finds it impossible to work properly and not be in physical contact with other workers.

The construction worker has even thought of quitting the project to protect his family, friends and co-workers.

"I'm at a point, is money more important than my family?"

Directives vary across Atlantic Canada 

Across Atlantic Canada, public health authorities are demanding that strict hygiene and physical removal measures be followed in the workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Government directives vary from  province to province.

In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the construction industry is considered a critical industry. But Prince Edward Island has decided to stop all new construction.

Expansion work is still underway at the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst. (Photo:Radio-Canada)

Albert Godin, a carpenter on the Bathurst site, said the group works alongside supervisors from Nova Scotia although the province of New Brunswick has been controlling cross-border crossings since last week.

"What bothers me the most is that the three big bosses come from [Nova Scotia] and then they come in here on Mondays, then they don't need to be in quarantine, nothing. They are on the site right away."

Huard also said construction workers are coming from other provinces like Ontario and are returning home on the weekends and return to the job sites without being quarantined.

"It's not going to affect just us here, it's going to affect us all around the province," Huard said.

'We may be losing our jobs'

The New Brunswick requirement that people who come into the province spend 14 days in isolation does not apply to the construction workers.

Pomerleau is a construction company based in Quebec and is in charge of the Bathurst project.

The company did not respond to Radio-Canada's interview request.

Godin said subcontractors don't have the right to stop construction.

Franco Huard, a construction worker, said it's impossible to keep a two-metre distance from other workers at all times. (Photo: Radio-Canada)

"The contractor told us that he hoped the government would call him to say to close the site. He said he has no right to shut it down," Godin said.

"Now that they have denounced the situation, the group of workers who are raising the alarm about this situation fear reprisals. We may be losing our jobs there."

With files from Radio-Canada