By Oliver Klinger, Publisher
Three hundred attendees left snow bound Canada to attend the Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada’s (PLCAC) 57th annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency, Maui, Hawaii, in mid April. There were representatives present from the Association’s 33 regular and 62 associate member firms, plus the pipeline craft unions and various guests including several past presidents.
A special presentation was made at the annual banquet honouring long time executive director Barry Brown, who retired at the end of 2010. Barry was made an honorary member of the PLCAC and a video was shown with clips from numerous members thanking him for his service. Barry was replaced by the new executive director, Neil Lane.
Presiding over this year’s meeting was Association president, Kevin Waschuk, of Waschuk Pipe Line Construction, Ltd. Kevin noted that 2010 was not a great year, remarking that “this past year was an extremely interesting and challenging year for the unionized pipeline industry in Canada. Coming off two of our busiest years in the history of our Association, members knew that the mainline business would be entering the slow part of the industry cycle and it did. In 2010, PLCAC members reported a total of 2.67 million man-hours worked on pipeline projects in Canada. A significant decline of almost 40% over the previous two years, and all attributed to the drop in mainline construction. Our contractors installing gas distribution systems worked 1.7 million man-hours during 2010 consistent with hours recorded over the past five years.
Among accomplishments, including safety initiatives and workforce attraction programs, the Association successfully concluded the re-negotiation of both its mainline and distribution agreements for another three years. Work activity for 2011 is promising but Kevin acknowledged workforce issues, highlighted by a critical shortage of skilled pipeline workers, will continue to haunt the industry. He noted that the industry through the PLCAC and its craft unions need to continue policies to attract labor. “PLCAC member experience combined with the pipeline craft unions is the advantage we have over many of our competitors for such labor.”
The outlook for 2011 and beyond is encouraging. “In terms of gas distribution construction work, the volume of activity in 2010 was close to that of the levels attained since 2005. And that was in the face of a slowdown in residential housing construction that was expected to impact this segment. The outlook for 2011 continues to look stable.
“In terms of mainline construction activity,” Kevin noted, “we expect to see some smaller projects starting this summer with more starting in the winter leading into a potentially very active 2012 and beyond.”
Winner of this past year’s James L. Abraham Pipeline Construction Safety Award in the mainline category was O.J. Pipelines Canada (Robert B. Somerville Co. and Waschuk Pipe Line also had no lost time injuries but did not work as many hours as O.J.). In the distribution category the winner was Robert B. Somerville Co. Limited. The specialty contractor – transportation category — was awarded to Premay Pipeline Hauling L.P. In the specialty contractor maintenance category the award went to Summit Pipeline Services Ltd. and the specialty contractor testing award went to Testco Western Corporation.
This year’s recipient of the Jack Cressey Future Leader Award went to Jason Thompson of Michels Canada Company. This award recognizes leadership and is open to all Association members’ employees who have not yet attained executive status in their company.