Labour Relations

Chapter 4.4

Labour Relations

    Performance Highlights

    • Contractor safety performance improves by 13 per cent from previous year
    • Apprentice content among contract workforce falls below expectations; unions and contractors requested to bridge the gap
    • $100,000 donation to Skills Canada Alberta supports high school programming to encourage students to explore careers in the trades

    Our Approach

    Syncrude, through our contractors, relies on a large contingent of skilled tradespeople who contribute to sustainable maintenance turnarounds and construction of new projects at our site.

    Overall, labour needs at Syncrude and elsewhere in Alberta during 2015-2017 are expected to decline from their 2014 peak, but rise again starting in 2018. Maintenance projects will account for a steadily increasing proportion of total labour demand. Workforce supply will decline significantly through to 2016, as some workers retire and those from out-of-province return home or seek opportunities in other markets. Industry will remain challenged by tight labour markets as new construction projects emerge and maintenance demands continue to increase.

    By actively working with our partners, we are pursuing initiatives to further develop more skilled workers in Canada. As well, we continue to focus on making strategic investments that encourage youth to choose trades as a career, such as the Father Patrick Mercredi High School Science and Technology Centre in Fort McMurray, CAREERS: The Next Generation, and programs at Keyano College.

    Management of Third-party Services

    We recognize our on-site suppliers and contractors can impact our operations and reputation, and we expect them to meet standards comparable to ours for occupational health and safety, human rights, working conditions, business ethics, environmental protection, regulatory compliance and sub-contracting. At a minimum this includes compliance with all applicable acts, laws and regulations. Our contract clauses cover numerous environmental, social and governance factors which are monitored through periodic audits and inspections. Management responsibility for this lies with Syncrude’s Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer (and Vice-President of Business Services) and the Manager of Procurement.

    Sources of Skilled Trades Maintenance and Construction Workers for Syncrude (2014)

    Hiring and Workplace Commitments

    Our commitment is to first employ Albertans and Canadians for contract labour. If unions are unable to source Canadian workers, they will then seek tradespeople in the United States, and then, if needed, other countries.

    About 85 per cent of these workers are sourced through the Building Trades of Alberta, which represents 16 trade unions and 75,000 union members, and has the ability to draw from union halls across Canada. In the event that workers cannot be found in Canada, the Building Trades then sources from the United States and overseas where skills and certifications are comparable to those in our own country. We are successful in providing jobs for Canadian maintenance and construction workers; in 2014 about one per cent of our contract workforce comprised temporary foreign workers.

    Skilled tradespeople sourced from outside of Canada and who work at Syncrude are protected by all Canadian labour regulations, as well as the respective collective agreements Syncrude contractor companies have with various unions. They are treated and compensated the same as any domestic worker, and the federal government provides assurance of this through unannounced visits to the workplace. Sponsoring unions and the Alberta government (through Alberta Industry and Training) also conduct their own independent audits and verifications of competency.

    We provide opportunities for skilled trades apprentices primarily through the various contractor companies that are employed on the Syncrude site. Syncrude’s contractual expectation is that apprentices will comprise between 25 to 30 per cent of all the skilled workers on any given project; these are to be equally distributed between the first and final years of the applicable trade apprenticeship. Apprentice ratios are measured quarterly by Syncrude. Expectations were not being met and Syncrude has requested the Building Trades unions and contractors work to bridge the gap and provide greater work opportunities for apprentices.

    Oil Sands Investment

    Construction, Machinery and Equipment (millions of 2007 dollars*)

    * Millions of 2007 dollars indicates that the investment values are in year 2007 dollars (base year), that is, adjusted for inflation. This is used to calculate the real physical year-to-year change of value of construction, factoring out growth (increase value) due to increases in prices.
    Source: Statistics Canada and BuildForce Canada

    Contractor Workforce Safety

    Syncrude is committed to providing a safe workplace for both employees and our contractor workforce. All skilled tradespeople and labour providers must abide by Syncrude’s safety and health policies. Our total 2014 onsite workforce comprised approximately 17,500 employees and contractors, with 37 million workforce hours. During this period, there were 81 contractor recordable injuries with a total recordable incident rate (TRIR) of 0.62 – a 13 per cent improvement from 2013. Refer to the Safety and Health chapter for further discussion on worker safety.

    Investing in Trades and Technology Training

    Syncrude donated $100,000 to Skills Canada in 2014 to promote trades and technology careers. This partnership enables visits to schools and post-secondary institutions to share information on the benefits of careers in this area, as well as on skills competitions at the regional, provincial, national and international levels. During the year, 17,000 students from 200 Alberta communities participated in Skills Canada programs.

    Syncrude provided an additional $15,000 towards the sponsorship of the Heavy Equipment Service Try-A-Trade® demonstration at the Provincial Skills Canada Competition in May, attended by a record 727 students. Our involvement allowed Syncrude staff to connect with students through interactive activities, and to share information on careers as millwrights, mechanics, crane operators, electricians, welders, carpenters, steam/pipefitters and equipment operators.

    Engagement Focused on Labour Needs

    The Syncrude Labour Relations Executive Steering Committee, composed of senior Syncrude leaders, assesses our labour workforce needs and develops short- and long-term strategies to meet those needs. This committee also oversees Syncrude’s engagement with several external stakeholder organizations that are working to influence labour market outcomes through a multi-pronged approach encompassing apprentice recruitment, training and supply; Journeyman recruitment, training and supply; and immigration.

    Syncrude and our construction industry stakeholders agree on what needs to be addressed to provide a sustainable construction workforce able to meet short-, medium- and long-term industry needs. Working committees from the various groups focus on these issues and, where there is opportunity, federal and provincial agencies are also engaged in sustainment work. Our partner stakeholders include:

    Canadian Chamber of Commerce Human Resources Policy Committee

    This committee was struck in April 2013 and mandated to address: skills and training; immigration policy; education of stakeholders about labour market needs; provision of labour market information; labour mobility in Canada; strategies to retain international students; and the employment of underutilized groups such as older workers, youth and Aboriginal people. A Syncrude employee serves as a committee member.

    Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA)

    The COAA provides leadership to enable the Alberta heavy industrial construction and industrial maintenance industries to be successful in safe, effective, timely and productive project execution. It recently developed the Industrial Construction Crew Supervisor (ICCS) designation, which is an industry best practice designed to develop and train front-line leaders in the competencies needed to ensure safety, productivity and schedule in the construction and maintenance industries. ICCS is certified by Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training. A Syncrude senior manager serves on the COAA Board of Directors.

    Alberta Owners/Building Trades Canadian Executive Board Partnership

    This group is comprised of Alberta construction project owners and the Canadian Executive Board of the Building Trades Unions of Canada. It is co-chaired by Syncrude’s Labour Relations manager on behalf of the project owners and by the Canadian operating officer of the Canadian Building Trades Unions on behalf of the union affiliates. The group’s vision is for Alberta to have a safe, effective, productive and high value-added construction and maintenance industry. Toward this, it engages in dialogue, information sharing and the exploration of ways to effect continuous improvement. It develops and implements strategies for priority areas and collaborates with others on complementary initiatives.

    Alberta Council of Turnaround Industry Maintenance Stakeholders (ACTIMS) & Construction Industry Stakeholders Association of Alberta (CISAA)

    ACTIMS is comprised of owners, labour providers and contractors. It is a tool to manage the strategic business of industrial plant maintenance in Alberta and other regions of Canada by building and sustaining the population of skilled trades professionals needed for plant maintenance over the long-term. If labour cannot be secured in Canada, ACTIMS works to ensure an adequate and properly trained temporary foreign workforce for major industrial maintenance turnarounds. The group is working to identify needed worker volumes, skill sets and qualifications; improve communication with labour providers regarding project plans and labour needs; develop standardized worker training and worksite protocols; and recruit new apprentices. ACTIMS is chaired by Syncrude’s Labour Relations manager.

    CISAA is similar to ACTIMS in its composition and approach, but focuses on major industrial construction work. It is chaired by Syncrude’s Labour Relations manager.

    Buildforce Canada

    Formerly the Construction Sector Council, Buildforce Canada is a national, industry-led and funded organization that works with construction stakeholders to provide information and resources to assist in managing workforce requirements. Buildforce leads programs that build the capacity and capability of the construction workforce to meet current and future industry demand. Buildforce is also the leading source of reliable trades workforce projections for Alberta and Canada. Syncrude participates on the Alberta Labour Market Information Committee to ensure the accuracy of industry information.

    National Owners Forum

    Under Buildforce Canada, this group of major construction project owners from across the country, including Syncrude, developed a five-year strategy for 2011-16 to cooperatively address the workforce challenges facing the construction industry. The strategy set out a 26-point implementation plan for owners, industry, educators and trainers, governments and other stakeholders to address the issues identified by the group.


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