How Canadian Natural Manages Costs And Unions At Horizon - Nickle’s Daily Oil Bulletin Website
*Canadian Natural persuaded the province to allow a site-wide labour agreement which would apply to all workers on its oilsands project. The Horizon leadership then finalized the specifics of that site-wide agreement with the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) and non-union contractors, while the traditional Alberta Building Trades Council has so far refused to sign a deal.
* The site-wide labour agreement does permit contractors to import foreign workers if they are unable to ensure supply from the Canadian market. To meet the anticipated needs of the oilsands, the federal and provincial governments established the Foreign Worker Program. If the need arises, Horizon's strategy of small construction packages makes it much easier to efficiently deploy and supervise work crews who don't speak English.
Enough Canadians may not be available. In April, Horizon management announced that a Chinese-Canadian joint venture, SSEC-Zachary JV, intends to bring in 225 workers this fall to erect bitumen and synthetic oil storage tanks. The vessels will be fabricated and transported to the northern site by Canadian contractors, with SSEC-Zachary handling on-site assembly.
Foreign labour or not, Canadian Natural is apparently paying competitive wages at Horizon. Given the tight market for skilled trades, the company has little choice. Lynn Zeidler, Horizon Construction Management’s vice-president in charge of construction management and labour relations for the megaproject, said some of the traditional building trades union agreements do offer more double overtime hours for long shifts. In exchange for that concession, the workforce on the Horizon Project can commute free of charge by air to and from their homes from across Canada.
Daily flights are already offered from Calgary and Edmonton, with East Coast charters slated to be in service shortly. Additional points in southern British Columbia will follow. “This benefit enables employees and their families to live on a more predictable lifestyle with significant regular time off,” Zeidler commented. Workers can also avoid the notoriously traffic-choked highway between Fort McMurray and Edmonton.
Unions have failed to present a common front on this project. Last week, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) announced that it would represent workers on the Horizon project, in part so workers who wish to be organized have an alternative to CLAC. Earlier, Edmonton Local 720 of the ironworkers union – a member of the Alberta Building Trades Council -- broke ranks and signed its own deal with Horizon Construction Management. Others are likely to follow.