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Longshoremen's union concerned after COVID-19 cases on container ship in Delta

Last Updated Aug 22, 2020 at 6:48 pm PDT

Summary

Two crew members have tested positive for the virus, five are in isolation according to the union.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union wants communication, clarity from the Public Health Agency of Canada

DELTA (NEWS 1130) — The union representing dockworkers is expressing concern after a container ship arrived in Delta with crew members who have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Sophia Express arrived at Deltaport earlier in the week after making a stop in Tacoma, Washington.

Patrick Bolen with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union says two of the crew members have tested positive for the virus, while five others are in isolation awaiting results. Typically, a ship like this one would have a crew of between 20 and 25.

“This is the first ship we know of — or one of the first — that came in with a positive case,” Bolen notes.

Members’ concerns led to a work-refusal Saturday morning, which has since been resolved.

“We did resolve our grievance and we got the employer to satisfy us that it was safe enough for our guys to go on board, but we’re still not happy, to be honest, that they didn’t just quarantine the vessel for 14 days,” Bolen says.

“The other problem we have is we were trying to stall the ship a little bit to make sure that all the crew — if they were infected — were in a town where they could get medical attention instead of being in the middle of the pond between here and somewhere else,” Bolen says, adding he worries about what could happen if the ship is allowed to depart on schedule.

The work done onboard to mitigate any health and safety risks satisfied the union’s immediate concerns, but Bolen says he would like more clarity and communication from the Public Health Agency of Canada which has jurisdiction since port operations are a federal matter.

“One thing we wanted was a letter from the health authority or a medical professional that said, ‘This ship is safe,'” Bolen explains.

“Nobody wants to tell anybody anything. We didn’t want names of the crew. We just want to know in general: Are we clear? Are we clean? Should we tell our guys it’s safe?”

Bolen says an outbreak among his union’s members would have effects that would extend far beyond members and their families.

“If we have an outbreak within the longshore community it could be devastating for Canada because trade will stop. We’re the front end of the food chain. If we have an outbreak that gets out of control everybody in Western Canada is going to be affected by it,” he says.

The coronavirus cases aboard the Sophia Express are not related to cases among members of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union reported Friday. 

NEWS 1130 has reached out to the Public Health Agency of Canada for comment.