Letter to Health Officials: Prioritization of Canadian Marine Workers for COVID-19 Vaccination and Rapid Testing

Dear Ministers and Chief Public Health Officers,

We are writing to you today as a coalition of marine industry labour unions representing workers in Canada’s domestic marine transportation system from coast to coast to coast, together with the Chamber of Marine Commerce, to seek prioritization in your respective jurisdictions for both rapid testing of asymptomatic domestic marine workers for COVID-19 and for vaccination as essential workers.

This would include crews on board Canadian domestic vessels, as well as marine pilots, commercial marine surveyors and ship repair specialists. This also includes port workers and stevedores engaged with loading and unloading vessels, federal inspectors who must board both foreign and domestic vessels, and ship crews with the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy.

Throughout the pandemic, Canadian marine workers have worked tirelessly to ensure that goods are still moving across the country and internationally, ensuring the delivery of vital cargoes people depend on such as home heating oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, road salt, grains for processing into food products and raw materials for manufacturing and in the case of the federal sector, keeping our maritime space safe and secure. All face potential exposure to COVID-19 through different transmission pathways.

Though most marine employers have put in place measures to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, success rates are not 100% guaranteed. As such, we see the need for regular rapid testing of domestic marine workers to give them peace of mind when they return home to their families. In this vein, we are asking asymptomatic domestic marine workers to be included as priority workers for the new rapid COVID-19 tests as well as the planned roll out of vaccines. Their status can be confirmed through various measures including by Seafarer Identity Cards, Company/Union issued letters or for federal workers, their Coast Guard or Military identification.

We understand that the federal Guidance on the prioritization of initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine(s) references essential workers to be prioritized in a Phase 2 prioritization for vaccination. As marine workers are considered essential workers, we would ask that marine workers are recognized and prioritized in any type of phase 2 plan federally, provincially and territorially.

We are proud of the work we have accomplished throughout the pandemic and have seen Canada’s marine sector rise to the occasion of working through these difficult times, and we thank you for considering our request.

We are available to discuss this matter further, and if you have questions please feel free to contact us at your convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Albert Batten

Atlantic Coast District Vice-President, International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA)

Graeme Johnston

President, BC Ferry & Marine Workers’ Union (BCFMWU)

James Given

President, Seafarers’ International Union of Canada (SIU)

John Hockey

National Representative, Unifor

Mark Boucher

President, Canadian Merchant Service Guild (CMSG)

Martin Lapierre

President, CUPE 375

Rob Ashton

President, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU)

Back to Articles