Keeping up on skilled trades wages Smaller employer monitoring the pay race

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Workers at the Vale site in Long Harbour are dwarfed by the huge buildings. The neutralizing plant will be the largest building in Newfoundland when it is finished. — File photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

From behind his desk at Brenton Rentals and Sales in Marystown, Jack Brenton was in a fight with some finicky software, as he answered questions from The Telegram on what the Hebron megaproject might mean to him and his business operation.

Brenton rents small-scale construction equipment and other general construction supplies and said he is pleased to see a piece of the Hebron GBS will likely be built in his area.

"We need as much of the work to be done and supplied by Newfoundlanders in Newfoundland and Labrador as much as possible," he said.

His own company is unlikely to chase any contracts for Hebron and so, as for direct impacts on his business, he said he isn't sure there will be too much of that. However, he is watching his labour costs.

Brenton said his cost has "definitely increased" in recent years, but the increases were prompted by wage differences with Alberta, rather than major construction projects in-province. He has offered more to his employees in order to retain them.

Executive director of the Resource Development Trades Council, David Wade, said it is important to compare apples to apples on wages between here and there (Alberta). Even so, on basic provincial averages, he estimated there is still a difference of between $6-$10 on a wage package for a unionized worker, depending on your trade and where you're working.

Bill Squires, business manager of Sheet Metal Workers International, Local 512, said this province's megaprojects and the overtime available there to date has been enough to attract the unionized workers needed in his trade.

Unlike most of the union locals involved in Long Harbour, his "active list" of local workers has already run out.

Squires told students at the College of the North Atlantic in 2011, his workers were taking home $1,600-$1,700 a week when living in the labour camp. Workers earn more than the standard pay package for the special project work. He estimates a "seven or eight dollar" spread still exists between basic pay packages offered to the union local in Alberta and what is offered to the local here, but workers from Alberta have been coming here to fill positions.

"They're not questioning the rates because they're working the overtime and they're making up for it," he said.

For Brenton, the question now is whether or not the province's major projects - with guaranteed pay rates that come without the required trip across country - will have his employees looking to the union for work, as they have looked to Alberta.

"We haven't found that yet, but it could happen," he said.


Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Resource Development Trades Council

Geographic location: Alberta, Hebron, Marystown Newfoundland and Labrador Long Harbour

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Recent comments

  • California Pete from NFLD
    January 09, 2012 - 13:26

    I worked in NL for 6 Month then laid off for the winter then worked for an other few Month then laid off that got tiring and I got nowhere in my life . Got my Jorneman's paper and left the province for good sorry to say but that is life in the fast lane.

  • Clac Member
    January 07, 2012 - 14:50

    The Problem with those Jobs in those Projects in Newfoundland, They hired 50 Guys then in for a Month or So. Lay them off, Then in a Week or So They Hired another 50 Guys. Its a Losing Battle.

  • Clac Member
    January 07, 2012 - 14:03

    NL Long Harbour Work 2 Months Laid off , Another 5 Days Work Laid off. Thats What Happen in Long Harbour Before Christmas. Hibernia a Months Work Laid Off. Alberta Full Time all year Round. This Province is a Joke. Love the Clac. Most of the People who get Trades in this Province Go to Alberta.