Promising Future For PLCAC

By Traci Read, Senior Editor | April 2009 Vol. 64 No. 4
Ted Shipka, outgoing PLCAC president

“The mainline pipeline and distribution agreements for Canada with the four trade and craft unions will expire on April 30, 2010,” explained Shipka. “Renegotiation of these agreements will begin in the next several months. Over the past several years, competition between the unionized and non-unionized sectors in the Canadian pipeline industry has intensified and a significant difference between the two groups exists in terms of the overall cost for labor because of the present labor union agreements. If PLCAC members are to remain a viable force in the Canadian pipeline market in the future, we must reach a settlement with the unions that will allow us to more effectively compete and assist in driving the necessary economies and increased efficiencies of operation necessary to secure the work.”

Shipka said that the availability of skilled labor to meet these construction demands continues to be at the forefront of the challenges facing PLCAC members.

“Over the past several years, the volume of overall construction activity in Canada has been exceptionally high, especially in Alberta, where a multitude of projects relating to the upstream oil and gas industry, including the mining, extraction and processing of tar-sands (heavy oil) has been concurrently underway,” he said. “This high volume of overall activity had the effect of severely depleting the available pool of skilled labor at a time when the Canadian pipeline industry desperately needed more workers. While our industry has successfully worked around this problem with the cooperation of the unions, there is concern that when economic conditions inevitably correct themselves and pipeline owners and operators decide to “ramp-up” the level of new pipeline construction to meet consumer demand, we will again be scrambling to find and recruit more workers. This concern is intensified by the fact that an aging workforce confronts us and many of those experienced and skilled pipeliners who have historically been the backbone of our labor force will shortly be exiting the workforce.

“At present, the outlook for 2009 for the pipeline industry in Canada remains positive, although an element of uncertainty certainly exists in terms of the prevailing economic circumstances,” Shipka added. “On the mainline side there are several projects in the midst of construction such as the Enbridge Alberta Clipper and the TransCanada PipeLines North Central Corridor Looping program; and on the distribution side, our members remain busy on several fronts.