Holiday Island fire 'very stressful' for ferry workers

·2 min read
The Holiday Island is out of operation after a fire broke out in the engine room Friday. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
The Holiday Island is out of operation after a fire broke out in the engine room Friday. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

Most of the passengers who were on the MV Holiday Island when it caught fire last week have now retrieved their vehicles and carried on with their journeys.

But for workers who were aboard the ferry, the fire will have a lasting impact, says Linda MacNeil, the regional director with Unifor Atlantic, the union representing licensed and unlicensed employees on the ship.

"It was very stressful," she said.

"We have to remember this is, for our members and others that work on the vessel, this is their second home. So to see the devastation that was taking place, and the threat, it was very stressful and still remains very stressful."

Unifor represents 140 Northumberland Ferries employees, from kitchen staff to those who work in the engine room.

Jennifer Rowsom Photography
Jennifer Rowsom Photography

The company has had counsellors available to staff in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. since Friday's fire. The support will continue for as long as necessary, MacNeil said.

"Mental health, on a normal day is very important. But when you have an incident that can impact a member so greatly, as in this case, you have to take a close look at that."

Part of investigation

Union members aboard the ferry that day are also now part of the Transportation Safety Board investigation into what happened, doing interviews about what they witnessed, what role they played in the evacuation and anything else they saw.

The union said it's confident its members had the proper safety training to ensure passengers and crew got off the boat unharmed. Despite that, Unifor is involved with all debriefings.

"110 per cent, our union is involved in all the discussions of what could've went better, what could've gone differently. So we're involved in all those discussions," MacNeil said.

For the time being, the ferry service is operating with one boat, the MV Confederation.

The union said while it may mean reduced hours for some of the 14 on-call members, Northumberland Ferries has assured staff that none of them will be laid off.

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