Coastal GasLink shrinks workforce by 800

Workforce reductions more the result of spring breakup than pandemic measures

The pipe for the Coastal GasLink began arriving some time ago, but it won't be going in the ground anytime soon. | Submitted

Coastal GasLink has shrunk its workforce from 1,200 in February to 400, but that has more to do with spring breakup than COVID-19 management measures.

Much of the work done to date along the 670-kilometre pipeline right-of-way has been things like clearing. About 60% of the right-of-way for the $6.6 billion pipeline has been cleared to date.

That work has been winding down as spring thaw approaches, since it makes it difficult to use trucks and heavy machinery when the ground turns to mud and water.

The company also has to work within migratory bird and fisheries windows.

The timing may be fortuitous, since there are concerns about having workers brought in and out to remote work camps during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coastal GasLink spokesperson Suzanne Wilton said most of the workers still employed on the project don't stay in work camps anyway.

"Most of the workforce right now is local and indigenous," Wilton said. "We aren't introducing any new workers into work camps, so many of those people are in their own homes and live locally. Those numbers are also reduced."

It's not clear when the work will ramp back up. For the next few weeks, only critical activities like environmental monitoring and erosion control is done. Wilton said she didn't know when a post-spring ramp-up will occur.

"We're working with the health authority and other officials to actively monitor, and any construction resumption will also be done with that consultation in mind to ensure we're able to safely bring those workers back," Wilton said.