Unifor Sounds Alarm Over Enbridge Gas Cuts To Emergency Response

Gas line warning signage with subdivision of houses in the distance (CNW Group/Unifor)

Enbridge Gas’ proposal to eliminate the evening and overnight emergency response shift will jeopardize the lives of customers and nearby residents, says Unifor.

“The disregard for public safety is breath-taking,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “If the company does not have enough workers to fulfil critical emergency roles, it is because it has laid off too many workers in pursuit of returns for shareholders.”

The evening (after 4 p.m.) shift is almost entirely an emergency response shift staffed by four workers for the evening. The overnight (after 8 p.m.) shift is only staffed by two positions to respond to critical gas leaks or broken infrastructure.

Enbridge has also internally announced a plan to reduce or eliminate compliance work because the company is not employing enough workers to do the inspections and fix problems.

“Enbridge has cut staffing to the bone already—it is unfathomable that they are seeking to lay-off more shift workers,” said Doug Carter, president of Unifor Local 975. “Gas line incidents are no joke. Enbridge must take emergencies seriously and enhance their response measures.”

Compliance work involves checking and inspecting valves and other parts of gas infrastructure for defects. Increasing the time between compliance inspections increases the risk of undetected faults.

Unifor members at Enbridge Gas are the only workers trained in emergency response for most gas leaks. Currently, Enbridge evening and overnight processes has a normal response time within one hour. However, gas workers are concerned the continued reduction of in-house staff, cutting shifts, and contracting-out will increase the time to respond to leaks.

Increasing Enbridge’s response time also increases the time that municipal emergency services must also be onsite securing the location, increasing risk of a serious incident and the costs to municipalities.

Unifor is calling on the City of Toronto to review contracts between the city and Enbridge Gas regarding the safety of natural gas lines. Unifor’s Health and Safety Department has responded with a statement of concern about the hazards introduced by Enbridge’s attempts to cut corners on emergency response readiness.


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