Hibernia union asks for a conciliator

Says it has concerns employers will try to run platform if workers strike

Moira Baird mbaird@thetelegram.com
Published on July 28, 2010

The union that represents Hibernia workers expects to file its request this week for a conciliator to help reach a contract with the Hibernia employers’ organization.

Brian Campbell, national representative for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers’ (CEP) union, said it will be filed in the next day or two.

“It’s in the works,” he said.

A tentative agreement was rejected by an overwhelming majority of unionized Hibernia workers earlier this month.

The union’s bargaining team and the Hibernia employers’ organization will return to the bargaining table Sept. 27

Tom Kennedy, vice-president of CEP Local 2121, said both sides agreed to that meeting last week.

“We hope to have the conciliator there.”

The employers’ organization represents 14 companies at Hibernia, including Hibernia Management and Development Co. (HMDC) and contractors, such as Schlumberger Canada and M-I Swaco, Noble Drilling and Crosbie Salamis.

“Based on the availability of both sides, we have committed to meet with the union in late September,” said HMDC spokeswoman Margot Bruce-O’Connell.

“We’ve not been advised that a conciliator has been appointed.

“Our goal is to reach a settlement that’s beneficial to both Hibernia Platform Employers’ Organization and the union.”

Meanwhile, Hibernia union president Kevin Kelly fears the employers will try to continue oil production if the contract dispute escalates.

“I’ve got grave concerns here because they’re planning on running this platform in the event of a strike or a lockout situation,” said Kelly, president of CEP Local 2121, in an interview Friday.

He said the union’s bargaining committee was told of this plan during meetings with the Hibernia employers’ organization.

HMDC won’t comment on its discussions with the union.

“We prefer to communicate directly with the union’s bargaining representatives,” said Bruce-O’Connell.

Along with wages, another key issue for the union is shop days — requiring some workers to spend several days working on equipment onshore once they finish a three-week rotation offshore.

Kelly said only two of the 14 Hibernia employers negotiating with the bargaining unit are pushing for the shop days — oil and gas service industry giants Schlumberger and MI Swaco.

“Then, they’re expected to do time in the shop on their days off,” said Kelly.

MI Swaco, which supplies drilling fluids, is 40 per cent owned by Schlumberger, which provides drilling and well services.

Shop days are used in other oil and gas jurisdictions to prepare, test and maintain equipment used offshore by the contractor companies.