Union head says trades are slowing returning to work


The head of the Sarnia and District Labour Council hopes most of his members will be back on the job come this summer.
Jason McMichael, speaking at a community conference organized by the City of Sarnia, says just before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared employment levels for the building trades in the Chemical Valley particularly had skyrocketed to nearly 95 per cent.
Nova Chemicals was one of the big employers as its $2 billion expansion on Petrolia Line was humming.
But then, McMichael says, workplaces started shutting down.
“We went from 90 to 95 per cent employment down to 50 per cent and even 20 per cent,” he says.
Nova alone laid off about 90 per cent of its construction workforce for a couple of weeks.
But recently, as the province begins allowing more workplaces to reopen using new health screening and increased sanitation on site, the trades are returning to the job site.
“We’re up to 50 or 60 per cent employment now,” says McMichael.
“And we are heading up with more and more constructions sites being opened.” McMichael hopes by this summer, 80 per cent of labour union members will be back on the job.
“That’s great news, more workers working means more people spending money in the local economy.”
McMichael adds he’s proud of his members who, while they were off the job, we out and volunteered. Trades members helped Bluewater Health build its field hospital at Lambton College.
And he says considering 10 per cent of the people in Sarnia-Lambton work in the trades, it is amazing only two workers have tested positive for COVID-19.