The Khaira situation has been brought back to light recently. After Roger Harris’ report stated that “the system had failed not only the Khaira workers but also British Columbians,” government agencies have been put on the hot seat.
In an article written by The Golden Star on August 18, 2010, the incident was explained.
“A Khaira Enterprises work camp at Bluewater Creek, 40 kilometres west of Golden, was shut down on July 21, when it was discovered by Conservation Officer and Ministry of Forest Workers who were investigating the reports of illegal burning. Company owners and 28 workers were found at the squalid camp. The workers had no money, no transportation and were unable to leave the remote site. The RCMP was also called to investigate.”
The workers were also deprived of clean drinking water, toilets, food and were treated very poorly by the contractors.
“The Khaira situation, which is clearly intolerable on many levels, raises questions about the safety of workers in the silviculture industry in B.C. and leads one to ask the following questions:,” Harris, B.C. Forest Safety Ombudsman said, “how, despite all of the evidence that appears to have existed and been documented by various regulatory bodies against Khaira leading up to the incident in Golden, could a workplace contracted by the the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations (MFLNRO) deteriorate to the point where workers needed to be rescued?”
Harris included many recommendations for the B.C. Federation of Labour in order to avoid another situation like Khaira, most of which the federation agrees with.
“Liberal cuts of the last decade have left many government agencies unable to do the work they need to,” said Jim Sinclair, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour, “what happened to Khaira workers in our public forests is a shocking example of that. We need to restore staffing levels at the Ministry of Forests and Range with an emphasis on compliance and enforcement, which we know has broken down.”
A recent press release from the B.C. Federation of Labour also states that “the Federation is calling for a review of the role of Employment Standard Branch in the silviculture industry.”
Sinclair explains this by saying that “The Safety Ombudsman’s mandate does not extend to the Employment Standards, yet his report shows that wages and working conditions contributed to the deteriorating health and safety environment facing these workers. To fully understand what went wrong and ensure it doesn’t happen again, we need a similar independent review of Employment Standards.”
But Harris says that there are many to blame for the incident.
“What makes the Khaira situation particularly disturbing is that throughout the operation of their camps, there was significant evidence, from a number of sources, that there were unacceptable, substandard and unsafe conditions in the workplace, and no significant action taken to stop the operations.”
Harris is calling on the federation to fix the current system which “failed the Khaira workers and all British Columbians who rely on government agencies to ensure our workplaces safe and fair.”
“It is an inescapable fact that the Khaira camps were allowed to operate unsafely for too long and that the system failed those workers.”