Pubdate: Wed, 29 Oct 2014
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Geoffrey Morgan
Page: C9


News That Zehaf-Bibeau Worked in 'Oilfields' Shows Shortage of Labour

There are so many jobs that need to be filled in Alberta's oilpatch 
that even people such as Ottawa gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 
confessed crack addict with a criminal record, have been able to find 
work, industry experts say.

Thousands of seasonal workers and contractors from across Canada 
travel to Alberta during each drilling season in search of 
high-paying jobs on drilling rigs, cooking meals in work camps, as 
labourers on fracking crews or doing construction work on facilities 
in the oilsands.

According to Petroleum Human Resources Council executive director 
Carla Campbell-Ott, there are more than 300 types of jobs available 
to a combination of skilled workers and labourers in the oilfields. 
The wider energy sector, she says, is growing from its 2012 total 
direct employment level of 195,000 people to an expected 235,000 by 2022.

University of Alberta associate professor of labour and employment 
law Eric Adams said given the labour crunch, companies competing to 
hire a limited number of people may be willing to look past a 
candidate's flaws if desperate.

"A more rigorous screening mechanism makes you a less attractive 
employer," Adams said in an interview. "Given that their No. 1 need 
is to hire and retain workers, I think there's an incentive to 
provide less front-end screening."

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson released a statement on Sunday that 
revealed Zehaf-Bibeau made his money from working in the "oilfields 
of Alberta," but did not say what kind of work he had been doing.

"He had access to a considerable amount of funds," Paulson said. "We 
are investigating all of his disbursements in the period leading up 
to the attack."

Early media reports quoted the RCMP as saying that Zehaf-Bibeau had 
been working in the oilsands, but the statement refers only to "oilfields."

Reached for comment Tuesday, the RCMP could not provide information 
on where Zehaf-Bibeau was working in the province, for how long or 
what kind of oilfield work he was doing.

Zehaf-Bibeau was addicted to crack cocaine and had been convicted of 
drug possession and robbery in British Columbia - two surefire ways 
to be dismissed from a job with a larger company in Alberta's oilpatch.

Employment screening and security checks in the oilsands sector of 
the industry are among the toughest in the energy business. Drug 
screening is the norm and the largest oilsands company, Suncor Energy 
Inc., is locked in a legal battle over its attempt to implement 
random drug testing at its operations. Other oilsands mine operators 
- - including Suncor, Syncrude Canada Ltd., Shell Canada Ltd. and 
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. - even use drug-sniffing dogs to 
perform random sweeps of their operations and camps, firing any 
worker caught with narcotics.

In addition, the largest oilfield services companies - firms that 
drill, frack and build the infrastructure for the production of oil 
and gas - require applicants to pass a drug and alcohol test before 
they're hired. They also perform driving history checks, as workers 
are expected to operate company vehicles. Fewer companies, however, 
require criminal record checks, a process that would have flagged Zehaf-Bibeau.

"It's not a common screening process," said Mark Sholz, president of 
the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors.

Sholz added his member companies in general perform interviews, 
reference checks, drug tests that screen for up to 12 narcotics, 
fitness tests and safety training before workers are hired onto a rig.

However, drug and security screening is not mandated at the industry 
association levels and is not standardized across all companies, Sholz said.

Adams said the number of employers in the energy sector "is in the 
thousands. My sense is that there are many, many kinds of occupations 
- - like elsewhere in the employment sector - where you would not be 
required to pass a pre-employment drug test."

The smallest companies in the oilfield service sector, Adams said, 
are generally at the bottom of the food chain. These firms need to 
compete with larger firms that get first choice of the top candidates 
in the job market.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom