Oil and gas workers demand action for ‘bread and butter’ industry

Lobbying cries boomed from the front steps of Confederation Building Wednesday afternoon as hundreds of oil and gas workers and their supporters rallied to escalate their demand for all levels of government to take action and help the struggling industry.

“What do we want? Political support. When do we want it? Now,” the protestors chanted.

The rally, organized by Unifor, comes after months of lobbying for an action plan to help the industry that has been hard hit in recent months, affected both by the pandemic and an international production war that saw a plunge in oil prices earlier this year.

The union represents more than 700 workers in the Hibernia and Terra Nova offshore oil and gas platforms.

“The trickle down affects more than 20,000 people in this province, if the federal and provincial governments don’t act as soon as they can,” said Dave Mercer, president of Unifor local 2121.

“I know they’re working on a plan, but we can’t wait two months or six months. It will have devastating effects on the entire province.”   

The state of the offshore oil sector has dominated the House of Assembly since its opening, and the rally has been preceded by a social media campaign.

‘Bread and butter’ for families

People involved with the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour and the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association also spoke to the large crowd, along with some workers from the offshore.

Amanda Young, a chef aboard the Terra Nova FPSO, said both she and her partner are employed in the offshore, and support two young daughters. 

“This industry, as it is for many offshore families, is our bread and butter. It puts food on our tables, roofs over our head, clothes on our back and gas in our car,” she said.

“These opportunities will no longer be on the table for many this year, simply because the jobs won’t be there. The money won’t be there.”

I’ve spent many restless nights worrying about my future.– Carmelita Synard

A plea to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from a united lobby group in May predicted that there could be a loss of nearly $61 billion in investments between now and 2038 if a quick solution isn’t offered.

The federal government has shown little public encouragement to invest in the sector.

The industry has faced numerous challenges in 2020, the latest on Sept. 9, as Husky Energy announced it was hitting pause on the future of its $2.2 billion West White Rose extension project, saying it needed government financial support to continue. A day later, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said the province could not agree to the ‘tremendous investment’ it asked for.

Amanda Young says her colleagues in the oil and gas industry are beginning to worry about their future. (Curtis Hicks/CBC)

Increasing layoffs

Young said she has been a part of the industry for a decade, but has seen more layoffs in the last six months than she has seen during her entire career.

“Now, the morale is far from fantastic. Life is far from good. You can see the stress on people’s faces,” she said. 

“They’re worried. They’re worried about if they’re working the next hitch, they’re worried if they might have to sell their houses, how they’ll pay their next mortgage bill, car payment, their medical bills, their children’s medical bills.”

Carmilita Synard, who worked aboard Hibernia, has been in the oil and gas sector for 18 years. She was among a list of employees who were laid off in June. 

“Unfortunately due to the financial impact of being laid off, this has me seriously considering the option to leave my province permanently,” she said. 

“I’ve spent many restless nights worrying about my future, and where do I go from here … Like others I tried to balance the financial budget of just paying the essential monthly bills, which is now proving to be very difficult in this economy. You can imagine just how hard it is to leave your family and friends to start all over again.” 

In a media release ahead of the rally, Unifor’s National President Jerry Dias said the rally is meant to show that “offshore oil and gas is integral to the economy.”

“The time has come for government to show these workers that we have their back when times are tough. We need action, and we need it now if we’re going to save offshore jobs.”

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Oil and gas workers demand action for ‘bread and butter’ industry

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/oil-gas-rally-sept-16-1.5725893?cmp=rss
Aggregated from: CBC | Newfoundland and Labrador News

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