FREDERICTON, May 28, 2020 /CNW/ - Community members and workers at the AV Group Nackawic pulp mill in Nackawic, NB, are deeply concerned about the company's use of 60 out-of-province contractors and the lack of health and safety controls to protect local workers.
"New Brunswick has been prudent during the COVID-19 pandemic and was rewarded with weeks without positive cases as a result," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "Restrictions are slowly being lifted for individuals and families, but while important family and life events are still being put on hold, corporations like AV Group Nackawic are getting a free pass to dive back into business as usual. This is a massive double standard and a huge risk to the health and well-being of New Brunswickers."
Members of Unifor Local 219 at the mill raised the alarm after the company's bidding process to hire contractors selected a Nova Scotia-based firm, despite there being hundreds of available workers already in the province.
"Now is not the time to be careless about pandemic protocols," said Brady Moore, President of Local 219. "When my members and I are still required to keep within our family bubbles but my employer is bringing folks across the border without any isolation period, we have every right to be concerned."
The business agent representing boilermakers in the province emphasized how necessary it is to employ people within the province during these challenging economic times.
"Due to job losses associated with the pandemic in New Brunswick, there are many qualified tradespersons available to do this work and support our local economy," said David Noel, Business Manager for Boilermakers Local 73. "I firmly believe that if there are jobs in NB they should be filled with residents from our province. When government asked the people to follow the rules, we did our part. We need their support in return to protect our people and our province."
On May 26, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil sent a letter to Premier Higgs outlining the concerns members brought forward about the use of out-of-province contractors and the lack of controls being set up in the workplace. Doug Jones, the president and CEO of Worksafe New Brunswick, offered a letter in response that did not answer the workers' specific concerns and only referred to their generic guide for safely re-opening workplaces.
"AV Nackawic has not advised the workers or their union of any new infection control or sanitation protocols," said MacNeil. "There seems to be a different set of rules around COVID-19 when it comes to corporations. We've recently seen what can happen when protocols aren't followed for cross-border travel and we don't need to invite more trouble."
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
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