Carnduff shows the rebound has started, but the pain is still there

On Jan. 17, all day the radio talked about people in the civil service worried about the government clamping down on civil service wages, with no raises expected, and layoffs possible.

Pipeline Newswent to Carnduff that day. Carnduff is an oilpatch town to the extreme. We spoke to three businesses on Jan. 17. Each had laid off around half of their staff compared to 2014, for a total of about 190 jobs, give or take, in just one small town. (Many of these people lived in other communities, but their jobs were based in Carnduff) Those that remained saw wage cuts of up to 20 per cent. This does not count the other half dozen oilpatch business who were in a similar boat. Only now have these business started to hire a few people back.

We wonder what the people affected by these cuts think about civil servants worried about not getting a raise next year, or small levels of cutbacks. The very reason the civil service is seeing “transformational change” is that the people in the oilpatch, who quite literally paid for those civil servants, have been out of work for some time now. The billion dollar provincial deficit is almost entirely attributable to the decline in oil revenues, never mind potash and uranium. We’ve checked the budget documents.

The pity train for civil servants has left the station.

Yet there is some serious cause for hope. While setting up appointments the week before, three calls to three businesses came up with the same response. They were too busy for us to visit the next day.

It’s been at least two years since we’ve heard things like that.

Indeed, several, but not all, of Carnduff’s business have begun to hire back staff, albeit at a measured pace. There’s a general reluctance to bring on people until there is enough consistent work for them to keep going. One company noted they want to bring their current staff back up to their previous pay levels (having undergone pay cuts during the downturn) before they bring on more people. In some cases, management are filling in for those times when they need another hand for the day.

The most positive things we heard was that a few were having a hard time finding qualified people. The thick stack of resumés is now pretty thin, as many people had left the oilpatch, or are reluctant to take on work that will last only until breakup. That these businesses are looking at all for workers is wonderful.

In the case of Betts Drilling, they suffered the loss of their office and shop due to a fire on Dec. 30, but they also saw all four of their rigs back at work. It’s been two years since they’ve seen 100 per cent utilization. Very few drilling companies in the past year have seen that. Indeed, many have seen zero per cent utilization at times.

Carnduff is a bellwether community for Saskatchewan’s oilpatch. As the southeast’s capital for rig moving, its activity level is a direct barometer for activity in the patch. If the rigs are moving, they’re drilling.

In the U.S., it used to be said that, “As goes General Motors, so goes the nation.” 

As goes Carnduff, so goes the Saskatchewan oilpatch.

© Copyright Pipeline News

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