The union representing housekeepers at a pipeline camp who were involved in a bus crash near Prince George, B.C., on Friday says they’re awaiting a grievance decision over complaints about the long ride to get to work.
Unite Here Local 40 spokesperson Michelle Travis said Monday that Horizon North, which runs the lodge as part of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project, decided in March to move the housekeepers from on-site to Prince George to make room for pipeline workers.
That meant a four-hour round-trip ride each workday, which the union argued goes against a collective agreement requirement that they be housed on site.
Travis said most of the people on the bus were women and many were immigrants from Somalia and Ethiopia.
“Our concern was that in order to make more room for the pipeline workers, they needed to move somebody out,” she said.
“So, Horizon North chose to move these workers two hours away … probably the lowest paid workers on the camp site and that’s who they chose to move off-site.”
Arbitration of the grievance was completed the day before the crash, Travis said.
Thirty people were on board the bus that ran off a forestry service road on Friday. Police at the time said the cause of the crash was still unclear, but early morning rain on the gravel road made the conditions “quite poor.”
Travis said the 18 people hurt are recovering from injuries, including concussions and broken bones.
“I think also for many of them, they’re really replaying what happened over and over again,” she said.
“Needless to say, it was traumatic, and there was one person who thought it was going to be the end for them.”
The union is calling on the company to go back to providing accommodation for its workers on-site.
“Frankly, we’re surprised this hasn’t happened sooner because the condition of those roads when it’s raining is not safe, clearly,” Travis said.
”So, we really hope the company will work to ensure that (workers’) safety is not put at risk going forward.”
Horizon North did not immediately respond to a request for comment but said in a statement last week that it was “conducting a full investigation to determine the cause of the incident.”
“Our immediate priority is the safety and well-being of our employees and ensuring they receive the medical attention and support they need,” the statement says.
“We are in the process of gathering additional information and will communicate with all relevant stakeholder groups as the situation develops.”