As the process of “de-manning” the fossil industry picks up momentum, Environmental Defence National Program Manager Dale Marshall has a question for Canadian policy-makers: “Given oil executives’ concerted efforts to get rid of every salary-earning employee in their companies, why does anyone listen when they talk about jobs?”
Although fossil lobbyists like Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers CEO Tim McMillan like to talk about jobs “at every opportunity”, he writes, the reality is that the companies McMillan represents—including those that are the most profitable—are curtailing employment as fast as they can.
“It’s natural that oil executives and industry associations try to curry favour with politicians and the public—asking for tax cuts, complaining about carbon regulations, and citing competitiveness issues vis à vis the U.S.—by talking about the jobs in their sector. They understand that creating jobs has more resonance than boosting corporate profits,” Marshall states, in a guest post for National Observer.
“But why should any government decision-maker or stakeholder or citizen—let alone any worker in the oil patch—give corporate executives any credibility when they discuss the importance of their industry as a creator or maintainer of employment?” he asks. “It is clear that the view of industry leaders is that employees and their salaries are a cost to be minimized.”
Marshall cites a range of examples of current industry practice, from the autonomous haulers Imperial Oil and Suncor are now introducing at their production operations, to the trend to replace fossil workers with robots on the horizontal fracturing (fracking) side of the industry.
“This indifference to local workers and communities is not new,” he notes. “In 2013 and 2014, Canadian media outlets reported extensively on the practice amongst oil companies such as Husky Energy and Imperial Oil of hiring cheaper foreign workers through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and then laying off domestic employees.”
The net result, he says, “is that despite continuously expanding oil production in Canada and corporate profits rising with the price of oil, many of the 100,000 jobs lost in the oil and gas over the last three to four years are not coming back.” By contrast, “Canadian jobs in renewable energy had already surpassed jobs in the oil sands back in 2014. That’s before the downturn in the oil sector, and before the continued growth in development and jobs in clean energy.”