Oxbow – Driving past Red Hawk Well Servicing Inc.’s Oxbow location, you can’t miss the help wanted billboard along the highway. And that’s kind of the point.
“We’ve been trying to hire. That sign’s been there for a year. We don’t take it down anymore,” said Terry Gunderman, owner, on Nov. 14.
“If a good guy walked in the door, we’d hire him, just to have him on hand for relief duty.
“It’s a severe labour shortage of good people. Getting good people that can pass the drug test is a real challenge. They’re getting to be fewer and further between,” he said.
Marijuana might have been decriminalized a year ago, but that doesn’t mean much if you want to work service rigs. If you were smoking dope on Sunday, don’t expect a job on Monday.
“Most of our customers say they don’t want any drugs in the system on their location. They don’t care what the law is, on their sites, they don’t want anything in your system. The majority of them, anyways,” Gunderman said.
“If we had four good people walk in the door, we’d hire them. Four good people, who could pass the drug test and have a license, we’d hire them on the spot,” he said.
It’s not just enough to have a proper license, but to be insurable. If you have too many points against your license, you aren’t insurable.
“I think everybody is in the same boat. Most of my competitors, they have rigs sitting because they don’t have people for them. It’s as frustrating as hell,” he said.
Red Hawk has about 70 people, between the shop and on the rigs. They have 10 rigs, but eight were working on that day. The others work on occasion, but it’s hit and miss.
They barely have enough people to man all ten rigs. “If all ten were working, we’d be scrambling,” he said.
It’s always a challenge to have relief help.
“I don’t think the drilling rigs are all that different. I think they’re in the same situation,” Gunderman added.
This winter is looking like more of the same. “We were all looking for a better outcome, come October, and that didn’t happen. I think reality is setting that this is the new norm, and we’re going to figure out how it’s going to work.
Their fleet of ten rings is made up of five singles and five doubles. While other companies have reported difficulties in finding work for singles these days, four of Red Hawk’s singles have been working. “We’ve been lucky with our singles. They move pretty fast and rig up pretty fast. They’ve got to be in the right place, right customer. I think there’s still a place for them. It kind of changes, the flavour of the day, once in a while. Two years ago, we couldn’t get singles out the door fast enough. Now it kind of went the other way.”