Rio Tinto’s BC Works in Kitimat. (File photo)

Workers only flying in if local replacements unavailable: Rio Tinto

The company says it will inform the District if it has to fly any additional workers in

While Rio Tinto has cancelled fly-ins the company says it will make exceptions for workers critical to essential roles within the development which cannot be outsourced locally.

The company has currently stopped bringing in fly-in workers.

At their April 6 meeting Rio Tinto BC Works general manager Affonso Bizon told the District of Kitimat Council that exceptions would only be done in urgent circumstances and would have to be approved by the company.

In response to a question from Coun. Mario Feldhoff on whether or not the company is having people self-isolate when they arrive in Kitimat, Bizon explained that while the company is not automatically forcing workers to quarantine upon arrival they have taken a number of steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, including a health screening before the worker departs to Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace and a temperature check upon arrival.

READ MORE: Rio Tinto cancels fly-ins to region amid COVID-19 pandemic

This is not to say that all workers are allowed to begin working without isolation — anyone displaying symptoms is asked to self isolate consistent with Northern Health protocols. Likewise, anyone who has travelled internationally or who is simply not feeling well is being asked by the company to self-isolate.

Coun. Lani Gibson said the majority of recent comments she heard from residents related to Rio Tinto focused on workers coming from out of the province, particularly in areas with higher rates of COVID-19 spread than B.C. such as Québec.

“I think certainly in the last week or two the concerns in the community that I’ve been hearing relate primarily to SL&B,” she said. “So what I understand you said is the decision was made this weekend [that] there will be absolutely no more out-of-province workers coming in for the next 8 weeks with SL&B?”

“Correct,” replied Bizon, who clarified that the only situation in which the company would be bringing in workers from outside the region is if a certain job skill for an essential part of the project could not be outsourced locally.

He said if that was the case the company would notify the District, adding that their overall goal is the health and safety of both their workers and the community at large.

He closed by encouraging members of the public with questions to call the company’s Q+A hotline at 250-639-5442 where they can provide specific answers to questions people might have about the company’s various policies regarding COVID-19.
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