Five workers from Quebec among latest to get isolation exemptions

·3 min read

Five workers brought in from Quebec for upgrades at a Richibucto paint recycling plant did not self-isolate before starting work this week, but they are following the company's isolation plan to keep them away from all New Brunswickers, says company CEO André Buisson.

The five workers are from Shawnigan, where Laurentide Resource Atlantic's head office is located, explained Buisson.

He said the company is installing a new production line that was developed by the team in Shawinigan, and the workers were brought in to do "specialized" electrical, hydraulic and mechanical work.

And they have absolutely no interaction with local workers or the population, said Buisson.

He said the company applied to WorkSafeNB for an exemption to the 14-day-isolation requirement.

The letter granting the exemption, which Buisson provided, states that the company has to ensure that the workers comply with all of the isolation provisions of their operational plan.

Submitted by André Buisson
Submitted by André Buisson

Buisson said the visiting workers are kept separate from the workers at the plant — they even have their own lunch area. The workers are in a rented house and provisions are provided by the company. They must travel directly to and from work and not stop at any other locations.

WorkSafeNB's website outlines even more requirements, including time and point of entry and what kind of ongoing screening for COVID-19 is required.

In their applications, companies are required to provide details about how workers will receive essential goods, such as food, laundry cleaning, and how they will get to and from work — all without having any contact with New Brunswickers.

Buisson said the company took its obligations very seriously.

"We're very conscious and very, very respectful of the protocol that has been put in place and agreed upon with the Public Health of New Brunswick," he said.

"We're convinced that we're doing the right thing and that we don't expose the community."

Two complaints received

So far, Richibucto Mayor Roger Doiron is only aware of two complaints about the visiting workers. He said he received one phone call and one in-person visit.

Both expressed concern about the spread of COVID-19 from the visiting workers, who come from Mauricie, a region now in level 4-maximum alert, according to the province's map of COVID-19 alert levels. Level 4 is Quebec's highest alert level.

Doiron said he doesn't have any concerns about the isolation exemption issued to the Quebec workers — provided everyone follows all of the agreed-upon protocols.

He said he met with the company's production manager last Friday and was assured that the company has a solid plan in place to keep the visiting workers away from everyone else in the community while they're here.

"What else can we do?" he wondered.

The experts have agreed to the company's plan and the company has pledged to follow it, he said.

Submitted by Roger Doiron
Submitted by Roger Doiron

"We have to trust those people that the company is responsible for the protocol that they've agreed on with WorkSafe New Brunswick, and we expect those people to respect the protocol," said Doiron.

In October, WorkSafeNB approved 228 of the 269 isolation plans it received, said Florence Flower, acting executive director of corporate communications.

"That does not necessarily mean that the rest were denied," said Flower. "Some were withdrawn, abandoned or were not necessary as they met other exemption options from the Department of Public Safety."

Laurentide Atlantic's isolation exemption is effective from Nov. 8 to Nov. 13.

Buisson said the Shawinigan workers arrived on Sunday and went to work Monday morning. He said the company picked this week, in part, because of the statutory holiday for Remembrance Day.

He said the Quebec team will have the plant completely to themselves on Wednesday, while the rest of the workers have the day off. And the hope is that the work will be wrapped up on Thursday.