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GUEST OPINION: Thoughts from a rotational worker

Dr. Heather Morrison, chief public health officer for P.E.I., outlined COVID-19 rules for rotational workers returning to the Island in her briefing on Nov. 18. Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Dr. Heather Morrison, chief public health officer for P.E.I., outlined COVID-19 rules for rotational workers returning to the Island in her briefing on Nov. 18. - Screengrab

Dan Harding
Guest opinion

The fear I've been reading about COVID-19 and rotational workers lately is really disheartening. You see, I am one of those rotational workers who have made the sacrifice of working away from home.

A lot of you have no idea the stress we workers feel daily. Imagine working for 12 hours a day for 21 days straight.

Let me explain what my day consists of. I wake up 5:15 a.m., head to the kitchen and bag up my room (while wearing my mask and washing hands). At 5:35 a.m., I jump on the bus that leaves camp at 6 a.m. for a toolbox meeting at 7 a.m. (keep in mind the mask stays on for the entire day). I pretrip my truck at 7:30 a.m. and head to any jobs I'm assigned to do on site. Lunch is at 1 p.m., then back to my jobs I'm doing.

I arrive back at laydown at 6 p.m. and do paperwork and cross shift until 7 p.m. I jump on the bus at 7:10 p.m. and head back to "prison camp," eating supper at 7:25 till 8 p.m. I can call my family for 15 to 30 minutes at 8:10 p.m., then jump in the shower to get the bitumen off my body, and in bed by 9:30 p.m. (I might get to watch a show if I'm lucky.) Keep in mind, this is for 21 days straight with no days off!

We live in a 1,500-man camp that is no bigger than the Charlottetown Mall with rooms no bigger than 9X12 feet — basically a closet to most of you.

We are not allowed to leave the site, we must hand wash at every touch point and social distance is strictly enforced. If you don't follow these rules, you're not staying here. Basically, it's their sandbox and, yes, they will kick you out if you don't follow those rules. Basically you're homeless till you get a flight home. So, yes, we follow the rules. They don’t want COVID-19 here and are strictly enforcing the rules here.

Now fast forward to when I fly home. The stress is already through the roof and then I get home for 14 days (actually 11 with the way Air Canada is now). Yes, home. I'm an Islander who lived in Charlottetown all my life. The land of the polite, the caring, the welcoming — Nope! Not lately! I am hated in Alberta because all my money goes home to P.E.I. Then I'm hated in my home province because I make the sacrifice of being away from my family.

Everyone thinks I have COVID-19, even though I'm actually safer than anyone else travelling. Here's an example of a rule I must follow in my site — and I bet you don't practise this one: Only two people are allowed in a pickup (or car) and both must be wearing a mask. On top of that, the passenger must not sit in any seat except for the seat behind the driver. How many of you obey that rule? Well, we do because if you don't? Remember, it's their sandbox.

I am tested by appointment three times when I'm home and, yes, I practise what I do on site. And, yes, you are safe around people like me. As for those who comment "why don't you move to Alberta?" Well to answer that, my wife works and so do my kids. They also are getting an education and I own my house. It's bad enough I barely see them.

Think about the depression and sacrifices we rotational workers make next time you comment or talk to people. Also, remember all our money comes home to P.E.I. Heck, I'll even tell you what I make. $120k a year and $47k goes to taxes off my paycheques; $11k goes to Air Canada. The rest of that takes care of my family and house.

There are a lot of us that are rotational workers. Trust me. I see them at the airport — which brings me to another comment I hear a lot: "shut down the flights." Really? You think it's people coming for a visit? Nope, it's full of workers like myself. So go ahead and bash me, I'm used to it now. It's been like this since March. But yet you will never understand what we go through.

Dan Harding of Cornwall, P.E.I. is a clean harbours operator based at Suncor Firebag and various other Suncor sites.

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