UPDATE: This story has been updated to include statements from LNG Canada and Dexterra.
Industrial janitors at the LNG Canada project site in Kitimat have voted in favour of a strike due to “the lack of progress in contract negotiations with subcontractor Dexterra over poor health and safety protections”.
With an overwhelming 84 per cent vote in-favour of striking, the janitors, represented by UNITE HERE Local 40 union are preparing to strike, according to a recent media release.
“LNG janitors work on the frontlines in construction sites surrounded by heavy machinery, cleaning workcamps staffed by hundreds of other LNG workers. They are among the lowest paid workers on the LNG site,” the release said. “Janitors have not been provided with a living wage, adequate staffing levels, fair workloads, and enough health and safety equipment to protect against COVID-19 until recently.”
The release added that the janitors have been trying to work through the issues at the bargaining table for months, but that “Dexterra’s failure to resolve these issues have prompted janitors to vote in favour of strike action”.
“Many of the janitors are First Nations who came to LNG because of promises of good jobs. But LNG Canada broke that promise,” LNG janitor Gary Hill said. “British Columbians, particularly Indigenous workers, deserve more from this $40 billion project. We’ve been trying to negotiate in good faith with Dexterra since June, but they’ve left us with no other option than to consider a strike. I support my three daughters and am trying to keep up with the high cost of rent. True reconciliation means providing jobs that pay a living wage. With strong support from our families and communities, we’re determined to strike for as long as it takes if the company refuses to work with us.”
Dexterra responded shortly after the strike vote was announced, to say that they are continuing negotiations with the UNITE HERE Local 40 janitors and hope to come to a mutually beneficial agreement soon.
“We are aware of the procedural vote in favour of strike action by our janitorial staff working at the LNG Canada site in Kitimat. We continue to bargain in good faith on a new contract with Unite Here Local 40, who represents these employees, including meetings today,” the statement read. “At this time, there are no outstanding health and safety issues being negotiated with respect to this contract. We are optimistic about finding a resolution to the remaining monetary terms that will provide benefit to all parties.”
A statement from an LNG Canada spokesperson also said that “LNG Canada expects employers to prioritize the health and safety of employees, and to treat them with fairness and respect”.
LNG Canada Project site janitors unionized with UNITE HERE Local 40 this past June. They are currently in bargaining for a first contract.