The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) has called on officials from the Provinces and Territories across the country to include marine sector workers in their ‘Phase 2’ plans to vaccinate essential workers against the COVID-19 virus. Up to this point, there has been no direct mention of seafarers and marine sector workers in any list of essential workers set to be getting the COVID-19 vaccine once the second phase of the vaccine rollout takes place.
The SIU of Canada, along with other marine sector labour organizations, issued a joint letter to all provincial, territorial and federal health officials across Canada calling on governments to ensure marine sector workers are not forgotten in any plan to vaccinate essential workers against the virus that has devastated the globe over the past year. Employees in the marine transport sector, including seafarers, have been deemed essential workers by the federal government, however, there has been no direct indication that seafarers will be inoculated against the COVID-19 virus alongside other essential workers as they begin receiving the vaccine.
While seafarers and port workers are a less visible workforce to the general public, they are essential to ensuring the continuity and fluidity of supply chains across Canada, which includes the delivery and unloading of critical goods such as PPE, medical supplies, and food items.
“A good example of the critical work of seafarers is the annual Arctic sealift operation in which vessels transit to the North to deliver essential items such as food and medical supplies to remote communities that would otherwise be without. The Canadian economy and our society at large are completely dependent on marine transportation,” stated James Given, President of the SIU of Canada.
Along with other essential workforces dealing with the virus on the frontline, marine sector workers are at risk of exposure through various pathways. While steps have been taken since the onset of the pandemic to mitigate the risk of contracting the virus, marine sector workers, such as seafarers, have had to make extreme adjustments to their normal work life, including sacrificing their ability to go ashore when in port. Many seafarers have not been able to leave their ships, even to take a simple walk, for months at a time which has led to issues with fatigue and deteriorating mental health.
“Marine sector workers have played a critical role and have sacrificed their normal lives to do their part to ensure the stability of the Canadian economy and have received little recognition. Government must now step up and ensure that these workers are prioritized appropriately in the planning of the ‘phase 2’ rollouts of the vaccine for essential workers.”
The Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU) is affiliated with the Seafarers’ International Union of North America serving unlicensed sailors since 1938. The SIU has been representing seafarers working aboard vessels on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, East Coast, and West Coast since 1954. SIU members have acquired the reputation of being amongst the best-trained and most qualified sailors in the world. The SIU represents thousands of qualified seafarers across Canada.