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Suncor will compensate tradespeople stuck in an oilsands work camp during a shutdown


Suncor has agreed to pay missed wages to contractors after complaints that they were asked to show up for work at a new oilsands mine and then told they won’t be fully compensated because of unexpected startup delays.

CBC News spoke with a worker and senior superintendent at work camp near the Fort Hills mine, who said about 1,000 workers were promised two weeks of work at the Suncor facility, followed by one week off. 

But construction on the site was temporarily restricted because it is in final commissioning and start-up stages, Suncor spokesperson Erin Reese confirmed to CBC News.

The shutdown has stretched to a week with no end in sight, and, according to several contract workers who reached out to CBC News, workers had been left sitting idle and being paid about 20 per cent of their normal wage.

“Basically we are captive workers,”  said one industrial insulator, whose identity CBC News agreed to withhold.

He said his supervisors informed him on Jan. 15 that the shutdown, needed to test pipes and valves, would last a day.

‘Everybody is stressed out’

“We [were] told if we leave and go home, it would be considered job abandonment and we would be let go,” said the worker, who earns about $40 an hour. 

CBC News visited Barge Landing, an oilsands camp north of Fort McMurray, where where workers have been holed up, waiting for work to resume at the Fort Hills facility. (David Thurton/ CBC)

Forced to stay in the camp without adequate pay was an unnecessary hardship, he said, adding that the patience of workers was wearing thin

“We have truck payments. House payments. Rent. The fear right now is we are not going to make it. Everybody is stressed out. There was even a fight (last night),” the worker said.

‘Very disgruntled bunch’

A senior superintendent with one of Suncor’s Fort Hills contractors said that about 1,050 workers were affected. Six days in an oilsands camp with no work and reduced pay was creating tense moments, he said on Monday.

“When I come back to camp, I am dealing with a very disgruntled bunch. They are yelling things at me just for the fact that I am working and they are not,” the superintendent said.

On Monday evening, Reese confirmed to CBC News that Suncor will compensate workers for lost wages. 

The Fort Hills mine, 90 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, was scheduled to begin producing oil by the end of 2017. It is jointly owned by Suncor, Total E&P Canada and Teck Resources.

Follow David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca





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