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Dozens of pipeline workers in Burnaby and beyond already out of work after court ruling: union

120 CLAC members sent home early on Thursday, spokesperson says
With all the focus on the Trans Mountain pipeline project, protestors and politicians have forgotten that B.C. ships coal and has dangerous mine tailings ponds, too, says the letter writer.

A Federal Court of Appeal ruling that overturned government approval of the Trans Mountain expansion was felt immediately by workers on the project, according to their union.

Within hours of the news breaking on Thursday, 120 members of the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) were sent home early, according to the union’s director of government and public relations, Ryan Bruce. Seventy-five of those workers had been working in Burnaby at the pipeline’s tank farm or the Westridge marine terminal, he said. 

“Officially, they were not given layoff notices but you can imagine the uncertainty that this creates amongst the workforce and those that are relying on this project to support their families and pay their mortgages and feed their kids,” Ryan Bruce said. “They’re worried. They’re concerned about what their future holds.”

Bruce said those 120 members expect to learn more early next week about Trans Mountain’s plan for them.

CLAC represents workers on five of the pipeline’s seven spans between Edmonton and Burnaby. Most of the individuals now out of work had been doing preparatory work for the expansion that had been planned to ramp up in the coming months. 

Bruce said the number of CLAC members working on the expansion had been expected to swell to as many as 3,000 in the coming months. Now, the people who had been banking on that employment are left asking questions, he said.

“What are people going to do?” Bruce asked.

On Thursday, the president of Kinder Morgan Canada issued a statement confirming that the company was suspending construction related to the twinning of the pipeline that would nearly triple its bitumen-carrying capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.

In an emailed statement, a Trans Mountain spokesperson did not answer specific questions from the NOW about the effect the court ruling would have on its employment numbers.

“What we can say is – Today, we have more than 2,000 people working for or on the project and by mid-2019 we expected to have 5,000 people working on the project,” the spokesperson wrote.

The federal government finalized its $4.5 billion purchase of the existing pipeline and expansion project Friday morning.

Liberal MP Terry Beech, whose Burnaby riding includes the pipeline’s terminus, said he read the entire 272-page ruling that quashed his government’s approval of the project based on a “flawed” National Energy Board review process.

By his understanding, Beech said the court’s issues with the NEB process could be traced back to the previous Conservative government, while his government's process was “reasonable but falls short.”

Beech said he has met with labour groups representing workers on the pipeline, but he wasn’t sure whether he had spoken to anyone from CLAC before. 

He said he wasn’t sure what next steps his government will take. 

“We will take this as an opportunity to get things right, to re-engage and hopefully that will help all future projects as well,” he said.

Asked if that would mean restarting the third and final stage of the NEB review process, Beech said he didn’t know.