Calgary – While the name of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors seems to imply just drilling rigs, it does, in fact, include the service rig side of the business. And they’ve heard some anecdotes of labour shortages on the service rigs.
“Service rig activity hasn’t necessarily been a ray of sunshine, but you can kind of see the sun through the clouds,” said John Bayko, vice president, communications, of the CAODC, on Nov. 7.
“I know the challenge is, when you’re looking to bring guys back, you can’t guarantee them any kind of long-term work. I know that all sorts of the of parts and pieces of the industry have been looking at ways of tackling some of the abandonment issues out there, or just looking at different strategies for longer term guarantees so you can bring guys back into the workforce,” he said.
When told that almost every service rig company in Saskatchewan is looking for workers, Bayko said, “That’s great, if people are looking for four to five hands per company. In some ways, I would say that’s a barometer that things are looking up. But at the same time, I don’t know how long their looking for guys for. I would suggest one of the reasons they’re having those issues is they don’t have longer term work for them.”
That’s pretty much exactly what most of Saskatchewan’s service rig companies that Pipeline News has spoken to in the past month have said.
The CAODC puts out recommended wage schedule, which is not binding on members. “We haven’t raised our wages in four or five years now,” he said.
High wages have long been the incentive to work in the industry, he noted, as there are some factors that aren’t as desirable. “The money was always a nice incentive. But in Alberta, we saw an increase in minimum wage, couple that with pay that has not gone up in five years, and work that’s not steady, and people are leaving the industry and they’re not coming back.”
There are also far fewer farm boys, traditionally one of the major labour pools, to draw from.
“In my mind, if things ever do turn around to some degree, I don’t know of too many (careers) that have such low barriers to entry, but such high ceilings in terms of where you can take a career. I think a lot of young people are frustrated, and looking towards the trades, when they see how competitive some of the software developing opportunities are, or careers that are more focused to new technology. There are a lot of people trying to get a finite number of jobs.”
He noted that working on the rigs is a way to get rid of high student debt and perhaps earn enough to travel. “If I had known the opportunities on the rigs when I graduated university, I would have done it for sure. You can work three, four months, make a ton of money, and it’s seasonal work. If you’re young, footloose and fancy-free, you can do some travelling, come back and fill up the bank account again.”
If the industry could offer a better wage, he thinks another labour pool could be developed.