New Brunswick

Nova Scotia mill workers allowed into province without self-isolating

WorkSafeNB has signed off on a move to bring a group of Nova Scotia boilermakers to Nackawic for a maintenance project at the AV Group mill. The workers are not required to self-isolate for 14 days.

AV Nackawic physical distancing plan to keep workers apart approved by WorksafeNB

Protesters on the scene Monday near the entrance the the AV Nackawic mill. The mill union, Unifor, is speaking out against the use of Nova Scotia trades workers who have not self-isolated during a maintenance shutdown. (Ed Hunter, CBC)

WorkSafeNB has signed off on a move to bring a group of Nova Scotia boilermakers to Nackawic for a maintenance project at the AV Group mill.

The workers are not required to self-isolate for 14 days.

In response to an inquiry from CBC News, WorkSafeNB spokesperson Laragh Dooley said there are certain circumstances where self-isolation of workers is not required.

She said AV Nackawic submitted an "operational plan"  for inter-provincial workers that will ensure they will be "isolated from any New Brunswicker while they travel to and from their accommodations and work site."

They will be required to remain at their accommodation and isolate from New Brunswickers when not on duty.

They must also be supervised to ensure isolation measures are met.

The statement said a WorkSafeNB health and safety officer visited the work site Friday to ensure compliance with the plan.

A small group of protesters set up at the mill's entrance Monday after members of Unifor, the union local at the mill, spoke out against employment of the Nova Scotia workers at the site.

"In this circumstance around the pandemic, I think it was a bad call by the government, a bad call by the employer," said Local 219 president Brady Moore.

"I just consider it a massive double-standard. This is not what's going on in that mill, this is about New Brunswickers, it's about my community in Nackawic."

Moore said the Nova Scotians had worked past shutdowns at the mill without problems, but the pandemic changes the situation.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin says, 'They are inevitably going to be working with other people.' (Jonathan Collicott, CBC News)

In a statement to CBC News on Tuesday, AV Group CEO Michael O'Blenis said there are 16 New Brunswick companies engaged in the shutdown employing more than 240 New Brunswick residents at the site along with one company with ties in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia doing specialized work there. 

"AV Group continues to follow all guidelines and protocols set out by the Province, Public safety, Worksafe NB and the Federal Government in addition to our extensive internal protocols to ensure the safety or our workforce," said O'Blenis. 

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said he spoke with the mill manager and was told 24 workers from Nova Scotia have been brought in to work a shutdown there.

He said he has been assured there are workers available in New Brunswick to do the work.

"If that type of skill set can be found in New Brunswick, I think government should be putting a little bit more of a heavy hand on companies to use New Brunswick first, especially during the state of emergency," said Austin.

"I was told that when they arrive at the work site that they are inevitably going to be working with other people, you know, local guys that are doing some of the work on the boilers and other equipment."

Nackawic Mayor Ian Kitchen said he called the mill and has been assured proper processes are being followed.

"I was concerned and I called," said Kitchen. "And I was assured they are following the proper protocols and if WorkSafe was in there and found that they weren't that they would be reprimanded."

About the Author

Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726 Connell.smith@cbc.ca

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