Brothers and Sisters,
Five years ago, the General Presidents’ Maintenance Committee for Canada (GPMC/NMC) communicated to our members that the climate within the contract maintenance industry required significant changes in order for us to compete and survive collectively. Hard decisions were made and we became more competitive in the industry. Unfortunately, the current situation in our industry is very difficult and our GPMC/NMC must again be innovative to remain competitive. While union halls are currently dispatching hundreds of members to some of the province’s major turnarounds and even though things appear to busy today, we continue to face several issues and challenges that must be addressed to ensure our ability to provide employment opportunities for our UBC members.
The current economic climate in Alberta continues to be unpredictable and worrisome as the influx of new economic investment continues to be minimal. Buildforce Canada’s research and statistics indicate that growth within the province will remain relatively flat for the next three to five years; there are no multi-billion-dollar industrial projects on the near horizon. There will be some new infrastructure projects (which may or may not be executed by our contractors), some pipeline work and some sustaining capital work within the petrochemical industry. However, the overall provincial industrial outlook is not great. This is not good news and things today look strikingly similar to the predicament we faced in 2016. The downturn in the industrial construction market means there are fewer projects to bid which leads to increased competition within the maintenance industry. We rallied and survived then, and we must rally and survive this time too.
Today, decisions within our industry are being driven by cost as clients continue to look for “cost effective” ways to execute their maintenance work and most are willing to bring in new service providers if necessary. Our signatory GPMC/NMA employers recently lost two substantial long-term maintenance contracts: TAMS- Suncor Firebag was lost to AECOM (a contract the GPMC/NMA held for more than 14 years) and Worley-Shell Scotford (a contract held for more than 60 years). These cancelled contracts provided long-term employment for hundreds of members of the Alberta Local Unions and also provided hundreds of short-term jobs during turnarounds.
It is our understanding the respective clients were pleased with the skills, performance, productivity, and capabilities of our members. Unfortunately, our contractors were not in position to compete with the financial package offered by the competition. The competition’s price was substantially lower for the same service and decisions will continue to be driven from a financial standpoint. It is important for us to have a competitive collective agreement which provides our signatory employers with the necessary tools to maintain existing contracts and to assist with the pursuit of new maintenance contracts.
The GPMC/NMC has now been in discussions with the contractors for several months. We anticipate making changes to our collective agreements and transforming how we operate within the maintenance industry. Changes are required to improve our competitive position within our industry and necessary to prevent the loss of any future job opportunities for our members. Failure to make any alterations would undoubtedly lead to the slow and systematic death of the unionized contract maintenance industry in Alberta. We won’t let this happen. Failure is not an option and the UBC and GPMC/NMC will continue to secure work for you by staying competitive. The GPMC/NMC will provide further updates as they become available.
Executive Secretary Treasurer
Alberta Regional Council of Carpenters and Allied Workers