Nfld. & Labrador

'Donald Trump gets his wish' if topsides work goes to Texas, union warns Husky

Rumblings over topsides for a proposed wellhead platform in the offshore is creating some labour tension, with one union saying the work should be done in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Husky won't comment on labour talks, construction plans for proposed wellhead platform

Jim Myers is business manager with Local 740 of the plumbers, pipefitters and welders union. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

It hasn't even been sanctioned yet, but there's growing labour tension now over how a proposed new wellhead platform for Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore will be constructed.

The head of Local 740 of the plumbers, pipefitters and welders union says the bargaining unit has been shut out of labour talks with the oil companies behind the West White Rose extension project.

Jim Myers also reacted angrily to a CBC story on Friday that suggested the provincial government has not ruled out concessions in order to ensure the project gets the green light.

Myers said only three unions, representing ironworkers, carpenters and labourers, have been invited to the bargaining table.

CBC News was unable to confirm this with Husky Energy or with the unions.

"There is piping work on that [concrete gravity structure] and we should be part of those negotiations," said Myers.

Topsides could be built in Texas

Myers said there are strong indications that the topsides for the wellhead platform will be constructed by Kiewit at the company's fabrication yard in Texas.

"If you build it in the Gulf coast, well (U.S. President) Donald Trump gets his wish. He puts Americans to work, and my members are out of work. And I don't like that and I don't support it and I want to work here in this province," Myers said.

'If you build it in the Gulf coast ... Donald Trump gets his wish. He puts Americans to work, and my members are out of work. And I don't like that.' - Union leader Jim Myers

He said it appears the accommodations module, a small component of the project, will be constructed in Marystown.

While topsides for Hebron were built in South Korea, Myers said his members played a big role in that project — now completed in Trinity Bay — and they are ready for the next challenge.

"Let's put 'em to work," he said.

Project marginal at today's prices

The wellhead platform includes a concrete gravity structure that will be constructed at a specially-built graving dock at the Port of Argentia.

The platform will look similar to Hebron and Hibernia, but its primary function will be drilling.

The project was announced four years ago, but was deferred in 2014 after oil prices plummeted.

Husky and its partners have been reviewing the economics of the project, and has said it will make a decision on sanctioning sometime this year.

This is a schematic diagram of the wellhead platform gravity base structure layout option. It is shown connected to to existing infrastructure in the White Rose field, including the SeaRose FPSO. (Husky Energy)

Since the project is marginal at today's oil prices, industry insiders have also said that Husky is pressing the provincial government for concessions, which could mean fewer construction jobs and perhaps even lower royalties.

Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady was vague when challenged with that question this week.

"We'll certainly have discussions with them in terms of how best to make sure this project gets sanctioned," Coady said.

Myers said he understands that the oil business is especially challenged right now, but he's calling on Premier Dwight Ball and his government to stand firm.

"I can tell you Local 740 has supported Premier Ball and we still support Premier Ball and we want him to support us. Put Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to work. That is the message we want to send here," he said.

Husky declined comment Friday.

About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.