Vale stopped letting contractors from outside Manitoba on company property March 23 to reduce risk

As a COVID-19 pandemic precaution, Vale Manitoba Operations stopped allowing any new external contractors from outside the province on their property March 23, except for one engineer from Newfoundland who self-isolated for 14 days after returning and before reporting back to work.

The company also set up screening stations at the T1 and T3 mine entrances March 24 to screen everyone that enters the plant site,Tara Ritchie of the company’s Corporate & Indigenous Affairs department said March 25.

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Contractors who have been in Thompson for the past four weeks are still working at Vale Manitoba Operations sites.

They have agreed to stay and will continue working for a distinct length of time, not to return after they leave,” Ritchie said. “All non-essential contractors and suppliers have been directed to stay away from Vale property.”

Manitoba Vale employees returning from outside the province since March 23 have been required to self-isolate for 14 days.

“We have put a large number of measures in place through our Pandemic Plan to protect the health and safety or our employees and to ensure we continue to operate safely,” said Ritchie. “It is everyone’s responsibility to do their part to flatten the curve of this virus as we work together to get through this critical time for our business, our families and our community.”

Warren Luky, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 6166, which represents hourly workers at Vale Manitoba Operations, said dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is like trying to defend against an invisible invading force. 

“We’ve been working hard with the company to make sure everybody’s safe,” he said March 25. “The concern is staying up with all the screening.”

Luky said he hopes that people in Thompson don’t get lulled into a false sense of security because there have not been any positive tests for COVID-19 in Northern Manitoba so far.

As of March 25, 36 people had been tested for COVID-19 at the testing site in Thompson and no one has tested positive yet.

USW Local 6166 has taken its own steps to protect its employees from possible exposure to the coronavirus by having those who can work from home and locking the door to their office, though people can ring the doorbell to be let in.

“It’s a little taxing,” Luky said of the pandemic precautions and all the information that changes on a daily basis, but says its important for everybody to do their part. “Let’s get through this together.”

© Melita New Era