Sabetta in Yamal Peninsula. Illustration photo: Atle Staalesen

Growing discontent among workers as health conditions deteriorate in remote Arctic construction sites

A strike in a Gazprom-managed field in Siberia sparks fear for similar workers' discontent in grand projects across the Arctic.
April 30, 2020

The outbreaks of COVID-19 in several of the major Russian construction projects in desolate northern regions is triggering a serious health situation among thousands of workers.

In the Chayadinskoye project in Siberia the situation this week led to the outbreak of open discontent among construction workers.

Several hundred people were involved in the protest and an open letter with complaints about the local health situation was authored and sent to one of the main project contractor companies, Interfax reports.

Big trees were used as roadblocks and a strike was declared, Ura News informs.   

The discontent comes as a significant number of workers have contracted the coronavirus and a quarantine regime has been introduced on site.

More than 10,000 workers are involved in the building of the field that ultimately will deliver big volumes of natural gas to China

A mobile hospital was this week sent to the remote field site by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situation. Similar hospitals have previously been sent to the Belokamenka construction site outside Murmansk and to Sabetta in the Yamal Peninsula.

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The situation in the Chayadinskoye project have made authorities and companies fear similar trouble in other projects.

In Belokamenka, about 11,000 workers are packed into the construction site located along the Kola Bay. More than one thousand of them are already registered as infected by the virus. Still, construction works continue and the number of new COVID-19 cases is likely to continue to rise.

As reported by Violetta Grudina, leader of Aleksey Navalny’s office in Murmansk, the health situation in Belokamenka is critical as Novatek and its contractor companies have failed to protect their workers.

Video footage from site show how workers live in tiny six-person rooms with little anti-virus protection.

 

 

The situation might be no better in Sabetta, the remote Arctic company town, where about 30,000 people are directly and indirectly involved in Novatek’s major operations on LNG production and export shipments. The official number of cases in Sabetta is only about 140. But several hundreds more are likely to carry the virus.

Like in the Chayadinskoye project, workers from both the Belokamenka and Sabetta are now being evacuated to other parts of the country.

Health authorities this week requested a closure of the Sabetta airport. However, the decision was reportedly disputed by Novatek, and a partial reopening was made. Over the last two days, more than 300 supposedly healthy workers have been flown out of the peninsula, newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda reports.

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