A construction site in Langley’s Willoughby neighbourhood August 23, 2020. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

How a push for better COVID protections helped B.C. construction workers keep going

Building Trades Council executive director Andrew Mercier maintains the measures prevented a shutdown

This Labour Day, Monday, Sept. 7, executive director of the BC Building Trades Council Andrew Mercier will be working. It may be an annual holiday that celebrates workers, but he has work to do.

“It’s not a day I’ll be taking off,” Mercier remarked.

For Mercier, a Langley resident who took over as the new executive director just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the day will give him a chance to catch up on some of the non-COVID-19 matters that have had to be put on the back burner during the current pandemic.

It has been a hectic time for the council, which has been pressing for improved protective measures for construction workers during the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Construction group calls for more government oversight of building sites

One very bad example of the situation that Mercier likes to cite concerns a work site, early on in the pandemic, where the sanitation was something less than an afterthought.

“A hand-washing station was a two-by-four duct-taped to a hose, and a bar of soap,” Mercier recalled.

He credits WorkSafe BC for taking the matter seriously, assigning hundreds of inspectors to enforce standards at all sites in the province to make sure construction workers were safe on the job.

“They (WorkSafe) reacted with lightning speed,” Mercier commented.

As a result, he believes, the B.C. construction industry as a whole managed to avoid the widespread shutdowns seen in Ontario and Quebec.

“You had workers staying home, you had projects shutting down [in those provinces],” Mercier told the Langley Advance Times.

“The difference is policy,” he said.

Without the quick response, “we would have had an industry shutdown,” Mercier added. “It’s a testament to the people at WorkSafe BC.”

At big sites, such as the LNG Canada and Site C Dam construction projects, where workers live together in camps, crews were screened before traveling to the camps.

When some at Site C showed symptoms after arriving, a trailer was set aside for isolation.

Some sites did close down altogether, like the Kemano tunneling project, where there was no way to run tunnel-boring machines without people being in close proximity to each other.

READ ALSO: New rules issued for B.C. construction projects, work camps for COVID-19

Other industries in B.C. have also benefited from the attention to coronavirus safety, with WorkSafe applying lessons learned from the construction sector, Mercier added.

So has the non-union construction sector, which is responsible for most of the residential projects in Langley and other B.C. communities.

Mercier said when it comes to safety, it doesn’t matter whether a worker is under a collective agreement.

“I don’t care if you’re union or non-union, call us [if you have a safety concern],” Mercier said.

READ ALSO: B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

His message to workers on Labour Day is one of gratitude.

“I just want to thank the working people at Langley, the people who do the hard work, and keep the lights on, and grocery stockers,” Mercier commented.

“They’re the real heroes.”

BC Building Trades Council represents 25 local unions belonging to 13 international unions. There are approximately 35,000 unionized construction workers in B.C.



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ConstructionLabourLangley

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Young Abbotsford cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

B.C. families financially affected by pandemic eligible for grocery gift cards

Program open to struggling families in Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley communities

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

COLUMN: We don’t need an election. But it’s 2020, so we’ll probably get one anyways.

There are only selfish reasons for the NDP to trigger an election this fall

OPINION: Beautiful B.C. – Isn’t it great? Shhh… Don’t tell anyone!

Huge numbers flocked to popular Chilliwack River Valley on Labour Day weekend

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

VIDEO: Shots fired outside Langley gas station that was scene of 2018 homicide

No reports of injuries in Saturday evening incident

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read