Need for pipeline workers doubles; 400 to be trained
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The need for trained workers by the Osage Nation on the Flanagan South project by Enbridge, set to begin Aug. 7, has doubled from 200 to 400 workers, said Enbridge Assistant Construction Manager Van Wyatt, during a July 16 meeting with Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle.
According to Osage Nation Human Resources Director Delary Walters, approximately 200 workers are working to complete training for the project before the Aug. 7 start date. Based on the need expressed by Enbridge, an additional 200 will be trained by the Osage Nation, which endeavors to train 400 of the 600 or more workers who will be needed for the project.
The additional need arose when Enbridge decided to work in different locations of the pipeline at the same time. Where the permits have already been obtained, work will take place concurrently in different locations. Starting locations will be established in: Mound City, Kansas, north of Independence, and near Warrensburg, Missouri, Wyatt said.
“The next location is Dewey, [Oklahoma] and then Hominy to Cushing,” he added. When the permits are obtained for the remaining locations of the planned pipeline, the work will continue there, Wyatt explained.
The third class of 116 students being offered training by the Osage Nation at the Pawhuska Business Development Center began with orientation on July 15 led by a panel consisting of: Osage Nation representatives from Human Resources and the Education Department, and Osage Nation Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle. Representatives of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 627 participated in the discussion during the morning session, offering a preview of what would be expected and some helpful advice. The Operators Union provides workers to operate heavy equipment for the project.
“Thanks to Chief Red Eagle, you have a chance to climb the ladder. You are in charge of your own destiny,” Business Rep. for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 627 Perry Morgan said. “This is probably the biggest pipeline project in the United States and Canada right now.
“For work in the Operator’s Union, you will be called and it’s your choice of whether to take the job. We’re hoping this will lead to other things,” said Morgan, who is from Kellyville, Okla.
According to Morgan, once the project starts, “Weather permitting, we’re going to work six days a week for ten hours a day.” The project is expected to last approximately nine months.
“If you’re union, they can expect you. That’s what separates you from the others — they can count on you,” Morgan said. “The employers will remember you if you go out there every day and make a showing. If you prove to be that kind of hand that the employer likes, we probably want you. It’s all about your work ethic…we’re all replaceable but we need to strive to be irreplaceable.”
The jobs for this project pay $18 and up plus overtime. Nonetheless, Morgan cautioned, “These jobs pay well but they end, so save your money. If workers have proven themselves, they will be called for other projects,” he explained.
When the call comes, the workers need to be ready. “They’ll call you and ask you to be somewhere in three days. Keep some money back for travel. You’ll need it.”
Stephen Tisdale, a steward for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 627, who lives in Hominy, offered advice about what to do if a worker encounters something he does not know how to do.
“Ask your boss. In most cases you’ll know,” Tisdale said. “If not, you could say: ‘I haven’t done this job before, is there any trick to it?’”
Morgan said that safety was the highest priority. Once hired for the job, U.S. Pipeline, the General Contractor for the project will have several days of orientation, which will include safety. In addition, each day will begin with a safety meeting at the job location’s warehouse, “They’ll go over this with you during orientation. There’s a proper way to do things. Take notes.”
Walters commented on the training the students were receiving at the Pawhuska Business Development Center, “This afternoon we’ll show you videos and if you fall asleep, you’ll be asked to leave. There’s nothing up here being shown that’s fluff.”
During a break, Osage Nation Education Director Ida Doyle, explained, that in part the training at the Pawhuska Business Development Center was being offered through a federal grant to clients who met the criteria. “We’re training through 477 to the WIA (Workforce Investment Act) clients,” Doyle said. The criteria include: Native American or Veteran preference, income guidelines and service area requirements. “The service area for the grant is all of Osage County,” Doyle said.
The training has been offered to more than just the WIA clients. Class space has been available at the Business Development Center at no extra cost, because demand did not exceed the classroom space available.
Another reason for this training opportunity is that instructors from the unions have donated their time. “If the unions had not provided free training, we would not have been able to do this.”
“If they’re not in WFIA, I can train the Osage member with tribal funds,” Doyle said. “There’s no Osage not getting trained. There’s not been a single person turned down for training.”
However, students do have to pass drug tests the first week of the classes. Students who are tardy or fall asleep are asked to leave the training program, Walters said.
In the afternoon session, other representatives from local unions spoke. Those included on the panel were: Alan Ayres, a U.S. Pipeline Union Steward for the Laborer’s Local 663, Owen Waddle, a U.S. Pipeline Union Steward for Operators Local 101, Project Manager Luke Resner of the U.S. Pipeline, which is the general contractor chosen by Enbridge, Inc. for the project, and John Hudson, Program Manager for Teamsters’ National Pipeline Labor-Management Cooperation Trust.
Ayres of the Laborer’s Union Local 663 said, “We’ve opened up membership for this project. You guys are being handed a very, very special opportunity. Take advantage of it.”
Resner said, “This is a unique opportunity to be close to home. There are projects in New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Some people take their families with them.”
Morgan explained, “Like over-the-road trucking, you can be away for months at a time.”
Resner, who is married and the father of five, added, “With Skype and Face time, I talk to them every day.”
Although the project begins Aug. 7, additional workers will be added week by week with the goal of having all of them on the job by mid-September, Resner told the students.
“The usual pipeline season is May to September. This is kind of unusual. It’s because Enbridge has to deliver at a specific time,” Resner said.
Ayers encouraged workers to seek out accommodations in the area.
Resner agreed. “When 600 people come to work it’s not easy to find a place to stay.”
The pay with overtime will be excellent, but the panelists encouraged workers to be conservative with their income.
“You’re going to make money like you’ve never seen before. Five thousand dollars is a lot of money but it’s not if you have to fund your family for a year,” said Doyle.
“Starting out, you’ll make about $2,000 per week,” Resner said.
Resner added that a $100 reimbursement toward steel-toe-boots would be included in the first paychecks.
Morgan said, “This is probably the only time a union pipeline will come into Osage County. If you get the call to work, make the most of it because it may never happen again.”
Tisdale said, “I’ve been in the pipeline business for 33 years. This has never happened before and it may never happen again — the pipeline project manager and the unions working together to help train workers.”
Resner said, “From the U.S. Pipeline perspective, it’s all about the leadership of Chief Red Eagle and the Osage Nation. I’ve never done this before and have never heard of it being done before.”
Morgan said, “You’re never going to see this configuration again. We need to celebrate it. We need to take these jobs. Let’s make this work and it will open opportunities for future jobs.”
Resner concluded by saying: “When we met with the President of U.S. Pipeline he said, ‘if they don’t make it, it’s their own fault because they’re being given the opportunity.’”