Ferry workers will be asking if travel between health regions is essential

With the province poised to reveal details of tougher travel restrictions today, the union ­representing B.C. Ferries ­workers says its members will simply ask would-be travellers if their trip between health regions is ­essential and take them at their word.

If they’re told the trip is not essential, “We are not going to sell those folks a ticket,” Graeme Johnston, president of the B.C. Ferry and Marine ­Workers Union, said Thursday. “And if they refuse to leave, then the only ticket they’ll be getting is from the police.”

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If someone who is denied a ticket argues, Johnston said, the worker will disengage from the exchange and call for management. “And if the person still has a problem, then we expect that there will be a police response,” he said. “We do have some assurances that the police will be ready to respond to any issue that arises related to these orders.

“Our members are not enforcement officers.”

The union president said the new restrictions on travel between health regions are reasonable and probably overdue.

Ferries workers have had to deal with unhappy ­travellers during the pandemic, most recently this month, when a belligerent anti-masker confronted staff on board the Spirit of Vancouver Island after it left Swartz Bay. The ferry returned to port and the man was met by RCMP officers.

The man received two COVID-19 related fines of $230 each and was prohibited from riding the ferry again that day.

Johnston said ferry workers “have every right to be worried about what the changes could mean for them, especially when it comes to those who won’t follow public health orders.

“I know that ferry workers want to do our part when it comes to flattening the curve,” Johnston said. “At the same time, we are very keenly aware that others don’t want to do their part and don’t care. Those are the folks I think that we’re concerned about and those are the incidents that I think ferry workers dread.”

B.C. Ferries staff have been contacting travellers who have made ferry reservations and asking those whose travel is not essential to cancel their trips. Some are gracious and understanding, while the odd person is not, Johnston said.

“It will be an interesting few days, that’s for sure.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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