B.C. Ferries is putting its financial well-being ahead of the health and safety of employees and the travelling public, according to some veteran employees.
Long-term B.C. Ferries’ employees, who work on the busiest routes in the system, said they are stressed out, worn down and concerned about their health and that of the public. Workers who were interviewed asked that their names not be used for fear of reprisal from the company.
“In my, and most of my co-workers’ opinions, safety is not driving B.C. Ferries right now, the bottom line is driving B.C. Ferries,” said one worker with more than 25 years experience.
All of the employees said there is not enough staff to handle additional cleaning duties required during the COVID-19 pandemic and a travelling public that too often pays little or no attention to safety guidelines such as wearing masks and social-distancing.
They said they have been told B.C. Ferries will not bring on more staff because it does not have the money.
As a result of the pandemic and a massive drop in demand, B.C. Ferries posted a loss of $62 million in the first quarter of this year, which ended June 30.
In its first-quarter results released Thursday, B.C. Ferries said revenue for the quarter dropped by $109 million to $137.4 million as a result of traffic demand falling off by as much as 80 per cent early in the pandemic.
B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said crew levels are set by Transport Canada to ensure vessels have sufficient staff for the number of passengers on board.
“In some cases we are sailing with additional staff,” she said. “I can appreciate that some staff may be fearful. Many people in society are feeling fearful given the pandemic. The pandemic has increased stress levels in many of us.”
Marshall said the company has taken strides to protect staff and the public, noting it announced this week that face coverings would be mandatory on all sailings, and cleaning routines have been “stepped up” since the pandemic started. “If any of our crew have concerns, we ask them to raise it with their supervisor or management,” Marshall said. “We are all in this together and commend the job our front-line staff do each and every day.”
But the employees were adamant more workers are needed. “We need more bodies even if just to monitor people and have them stop roaming all over the boat,” said a worker on the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route.
The employees expressed frustration at not being able to do much about people not following social-distancing guidelines or wearing masks. Until this week, ferry passengers had to carry a mask with them, but were not required to wear one unless they were unable to social distance. That policy changed as B.C. Ferries announced Thursday that, as of next week, passengers will be required to wear face masks at all times while aboard vessels or inside terminals.
“We keep getting it jammed down our throats that we can’t enforce [the rules], we can only suggest to people,” one worker said.
“To me, it looks like it was before the pandemic. Things are willy-nilly, there is no social-distancing and no one policing anything. Basically, nothing has changed. We have less passengers, but those passengers are not being required to follow the rules I see being enforced in other businesses.”
All of the workers interviewed said they see grocery stores and restaurants enforcing rules and offering extensive plexiglass protective equipment, but there’s nothing like that on the vessels.
“You can really see it when the boat is about to dock,” said one worker, noting while foot passengers are told to remain seated to ensure physical-distancing as they disembark, there is instead a mass grouping of people queuing to get off. “And no one polices that.”
Since B.C. Ferries opened up services such as gift shops and cafeterias and ferry traffic picked up, the workers said, catering staff have been unable to maintain the rigorous cleaning practices they employed early in the pandemic.
“We ramped up cleaning until the cafeterias opened up, now cleaning has dropped off. Now, it may get done once in a shift maybe twice, and instead of cleaning the entire chair we will only clean the arm rests,” said one worker.
Another said: “I find it completely stressful. It’s so stressful, but I don’t have any choice.” The worker said they need the job to support their family.
A worker on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, who has been with the company for more than 25 years, said employees have been frustrated by a lack of clarity and direction from head office, as well as the inability for employees to enforce rules.
“Its tough with the public, the ones that don’t want to oblige and wear a mask when they can’t social distance,” the worker said, adding they regularly deal with incidents of passengers reacting poorly to other passengers not following safety guidelines.
“It’s really wearing on the crew because we are constantly dealing with these kinds of issues. People are getting tired, they are on edge.”
The worker said cleaning standards have slipped. “We just can’t keep up,” the worker said. “We’d like to see more people on the ship to monitor these things. We’ve seen it at other businesses who have had to hire more people — we seem to have gone the other way.”
Graeme Johnston, president of the B.C. Ferries and Marine Workers Union, said the workers’ concerns seem to be universal through the membership. He said there have been multiple alerts raised internally at B.C. Ferries about staffing levels.
“People are saying the workload related to cleaning on top of all other duties is just overwhelming,” he said.
“If our members believe the work they are being asked to do is unsafe, then we would tell them to refuse to do the work.
“We saw that happen during the upswing of the pandemic and I would day it is a very real possibility as we see another upswing of it now.
“Whether that results in a service interruption or not will depend on the response of the employer. But it is a real possibility.”
US Reportedly Curbs Exports From Chinese Chipmaker SMIC For ‘Unacceptable Risks’ – Sputnik International
Previously, reports suggested the US Department of Defense was considering adding Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) to an Entity List along with Huawei, ZTE and more than 70 Chinese tech firms, barred from doing business with US firms without a licence, as part of the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.
The United States Department of Commerce has reportedly sanctioned China’s biggest chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), curbing exports from the company, according to a letter cited by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Saturday.
According to the Commerce Department’s dispatch to the Shanghai-based firm, the WSJ reports, US companies will now need a licence to export certain products to China’s largest chipmaker, because of the “unacceptable risk” that SMIC products could be used for military purposes.
An SMIC spokeswoman cited by the WSJ said in an emailed statement that the firm had not yet received an official notice of the sanctions and was looking into the situation.
The chipmaker reiterated that it has no relationship with the Chinese armed forces and does not manufacture goods for any military end-users or uses.
There has not been any official comment on the report from the US Commerce Department.
Escalated US Attack
Earlier reports in September suggested the Trump administration was considering adding the firm to a government Entity List along with Huawei, ZTE and more than 70 Chinese tech firms which are barred from conducting business with US firms.
Adding SMIC to the Commerce Department’s so-called entity list would in effect target exports from a broader set of companies.
“The military end-use rules only apply to a subset of listed US origin items. The Entity List rules apply to all US origin and some foreign-origin items,” said Kevin Wolf, an export control lawyer at Akin Gump and senior Commerce Department official in the Obama administration, as cited by Bloomberg.
Around 50 per cent of SMIC’s equipment originates from the US, with the company having a market value of more than $29 billion, according to Bloomberg data, with US chipmakers Qualcomm Inc. and Broadcom Inc. among SMIC’s customers.
“Should the US export ban on SMIC materialise, it will signal an escalated attack by the US on China’s semiconductor industry and more Chinese companies will likely be included,” analyst Edison Lee of the American multinational independent investment bank and financial services company Jefferies said.
In the wake of the above-mentioned reports, the Chinese semiconductor company reiterated that it strictly abides by the laws and regulations of relevant nations while having maintained cooperative relations with global chipmaking equipment suppliers for years.
“Any assumptions of the company’s ties with the Chinese military are untrue statements and false accusations. The Company is in complete shock and perplexity at the news. Nevertheless, SMIC is open to sincere and transparent communication with the US Government agencies in hope of resolving potential misunderstandings,” SMIC said in a statement on its website.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian slammed Washington over “blatant bullying.”
“What it has done is violated international trade rules, undermined global industrial supply and value chains and will inevitably hurt US national interests and its own image,” Zhao told a news briefing in Beijing.
China’s Tech Giants in the Crosshairs
The US Department of Commerce added dozens of internationally based Huawei affiliates to its Entity list in August 2020, restricting their ability to do business with American firms. The decision expanded on rules issued in May subjecting companies to enhanced licensing requirements if they sold third-party computer chips or chip designs to Huawei that rely on US software or manufacturing equipment.
Back in 2019 the department essentially banned US companies from selling parts and components to 68 Huawei affiliates, allowing, however, for temporary waivers that enabled limited transactions to ease the transition for American suppliers.
Those waivers expired in August 2020, with a fresh order subjecting an additional 38 Huawei affiliates around the world to similar restrictions.
Fresh measures on the part of Washington could block Huawei from gaining access to chipsets, in yet another stinging blow to the Shenzhen-based tech giant.
REUTERS / Dado Ruvic
Earlier this month China had launched plans to boost the mainland chipmaker and others, seeking to distance itself from US technologies.
Sanctions targeting the Chinese partially state-owned publicly-listed semiconductor foundry company, SMIC, would come as yet another step in the escalating tensions between the US and China, that have been exchanging invective on issues ranging from trade, their respective governments’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and perceived threats to intellectual property and national security.
The Trump administration began its onslaught by blacklisting Huawei Technologies Co., preventing the giant Chinese telecommunications provider from buying components from American suppliers and pressuring allies to follow suit.
REUTERS / Florence Lo/Illustration
Subsequently, President Donald Trump threatened to ban the video app TikTok from China’s ByteDance Ltd. if the service weren’t sold to American owners, sparking indignation among Chinese executives and government officials, who have repeatedly dismissed all allegations of spying and presenting a security threat.
Recall notice issued on spaghetti sauce that could cause botulism – Montreal Gazette
A brand of spaghetti sauce sold in Quebec has been recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The sauce, made by Érablière Godbout, could cause botulism, according to an advisory by the agency.
The sauce did not have a “keep refrigerated” label on the jars.
The spaghetti sauce, which was sold in 500 millilitre and one litre jars, should be returned to the store or thrown out.
No one has fallen ill after eating the sauce, but the recall has been ordered as a precaution, the agency said in a news release.
Symptoms in adults can include facial paralysis or loss of facial expression, fixed pupils, difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelids, blurred or double vision, slurred speech and hoarseness.
Symptoms of botulism in children can include difficulty swallowing, slurred speech, generalized weakness and paralysis.
'Netwalker' ransomware attacks pose challenge for businesses, organizations in Canada – Global News
Despite pandemic-imposed rules, the lights of the Liquid Zoo are still on until 2 a.m., which is causing confusion for some residents in Kelowna.
The business, which is known for featuring strippers, is downtown on Kelowna’s Lawrence Avenue.
In early September, Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered businesses to stop operating as nightclubs.
She also said that last call must be at 10 p.m., and unless a full meal service is provided, businesses must close by 11 p.m.
A bouncer at Liquid Zoo’s door on Friday night could be heard telling guests that they could order a bunch of drinks for last call at 10 p.m. and keep drinking until 2 a.m.
The Liquid Zoo was not available for an on-camera interview with Global News on Sunday.
However, the business said guests are restricted to ordering two drinks at last call but can sip them until 2 a.m.
The business also said that it has stopped operating as a nightclub and isn’t doing anything illegal.
Liquid Zoo said it offers a full food menu, which means it can remain open until 2 a.m.
The business said it’s had scrutiny from RCMP, Interior Health and bylaw officers.
Although the public health order does say that liquor must not be consumed on premises by owners, operators or staff after 11 p.m., it doesn’t explicitly say that guests must finish their drinks before then.
Interior Health said its public health teams will be investigating the situation.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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