Kiewit Offshore Services is employing about 350 tradespeople in Marystown. Adding technicians, management and support personnel brings the count to about 480 people.
According to Kiewit spokesman Tom Janssen, the company is now looking at another 80 hires in short order, as work on the drilling support module for the $14-billion Hebron offshore oil platform begins to peak.
In attracting the workers needed, Kiewit and Unifor Local 20 can highlight a new memorandum of understanding (MOU), with changes in effect Jan. 16, providing higher rates of pay for workers living within a 120-kilometre radius of the worksite.
The agreement includes a shift premium and an overtime premium, Janssen confirmed in emailed responses to questions.
Exact dollar figures were not stated by the company or the union, but TC Media has reported, citing worker sources, employees living in the area are now receiving an extra $7 an hour atop regular pay and an incentive on time worked beyond eight hours on a weekend shift.
The negotiation of the MOU, in addition to the core contract, followed an end date on a similar, previous agreement.
The boost for locals reflects a need for the company to address any local discontent, as they add more workers from outside the Burin Peninsula to meet the labour needs of the project.
Janssen did not state any existing differences in pay.
“The MOU allowed us to hire workers from outside the Marystown area which has become necessary because of the volume of work in the province and its effect on the supply of available labour. These workers and local workers have different scheduling preferences. The renegotiation of benefits took into account these differences,” he stated.
Local workers typically run shifts of five days on and two days off.
Workers coming from outside are being offered 14 days on, seven days off.
Kiewit has not brought in any temporary foreign workers for its piece of the offshore oil project, meaning differences in pay are related to workers on the Burin Peninsula versus other parts of the province and Canada.
Wayne Brake, president of Unifor Local 20, was reluctant to talk about the MOU.
“We’ve had some extra people brought in, and we’re just trying to get some wage parity with some of the b’ys they brought in,” he said, before redirecting questions.
Worker morale high
Brake was asked about the addition of so many workers at Kiewit’s Marystown operation in a short period and said the feeling at the site for all employees is generally positive, and much more positive than at times when there has been a lull in large-project work in the region.
“The morale is up, I’d say, 150 per cent,” he said.
“Hopefully they’ve got stuff lined up, so we don’t come down to this thing where we’ve got 600 people and then a year and a half’s time we have 10,” he said, adding he feels more work will come.
Work in Marystown on the drilling support module was expected to last about two years. First steel for the module was cut at the Kiewit Cow Head fabrication facility on May 14, 2013.
The drilling support module is one of two Hebron modules — large pieces of the topsides — being built in Newfoundland and Labrador. The other is the living quarters module, to be completed at Nalcor Energy’s Bull Arm Fabrication Site.
Also at Bull Arm, a Kiewit-Kvaerner Contractors joint venture is completing what will be the base of the Hebron offshore gravity base structure.