Workers to unionize at large LNG housing project in Kitimat

The B.C. Labour Relations Board has ruled in favour of Unite Here Local 40 in its efforts to unionize workers at the Crossroads Lodge in Kitimat.

The Crossroads Lodge is one of three massive accommodation complexes being built or expanded to cater to thousands of workers on the $40-billion LNG Canada project in this northern B.C. town.

Unite Here Local 40 is trying to unionize 56 kitchen, hotel, reception and janitorial staff at the half-completed lodge on Highway 37. The lodge is already housing 360 workers in private rooms, with 360 more rooms expected to be ready by February 2020. When the project is complete it will employ 120 workers.

The company building and operating the lodge, Horizon North, was opposed to the unionization push on the grounds that there would be more members joining later — a concept known as buildup. The premise of the buildup argument is that it would be undemocratic to permit a smaller group of current employees to determine the representation rights of a future larger group.

The lodge’s biggest customer is Fluor Canada, hired by LNG Canada to design and build the project that is expected to open in 2024. It’s the largest energy investment in Canadian history, comprised of Shell, Petronas, PetroChina, Mitsubishi and Korea Gas.

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There is a 5,000-person housing facility being built at the LNG plant site, called Cedar Valley Lodge. The existing Sitka Lodge is being expanded from 646 to 1,096 rooms.

According to the board , “looking at the circumstances as a whole, I am not persuaded this is an appropriate case to apply the buildup principle. Applying the principle would deny the fundamental right to choose union representation to a group of employees who are representative of the bargaining unit that will likely exist after a buildup of similar employees which I find is not imminent.”

The members have now certified but do not yet have a collective agreement in place.

There are four LNG projects in the works in B.C., with LNG Canada being the most-advanced.

Chevron’s Kitimat LNG is planned for south of LNG Canada on Haisla Nation lands and is in the pre-application phase. ExxonMobil’s WCC LNG project is also in the pre-application phase northeast from Prince Rupert, while the smaller Woodfibre LNG near Squamish is already approved.

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