If and when construction begins on the beleaguered Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, one of the biggest winners could be organized labour, thanks to a decision to increase the amount of work being given to unionized companies revealed just before the federal government took possession of the project.
Though the federal government announced in May it would pay $4.5-billion to buy the pipeline and licenses for the expansion, the deal didn’t close until Aug. 31. On Aug. 22, Kinder Morgan, at that point still the pipeline’s owner, released an updated list of the contractors hired to work on the project. Two construction firms — Midwest Pipelines Inc. and Ledcor Group of Companies — had their share of the project reduced in favour of a unionized consortium, SA Energy Group.
“Obviously it’s good news for the companies and for our association,” said Wayne Hodgins, the executive director-designate of the Pipeline Contractors Association of Canada, of which SA Energy Group is a part.
Ledcor and Midwest Pipelines declined to comment on the recent changes. Ledcor said in a written statement it “looks forward to working with our business partners” on Trans Mountain.
The decision appears to have marked a departure for Kinder Morgan, which for years had resisted lobbying efforts by organized labour in both B.C. and Alberta to expand union representation among pipeline contractors, labour representatives told the National Post.
The updated August list effectively lays out the companies that will build the Trans Mountain pipeline. It modifies an earlier list of companies, released September 2017, that were awarded the early-stage “consultancy” work on the pipeline.
Finance department spokesman Pierre-Olivier Herbert said the expanded union representation was part of an internal decision by Kinder Morgan, saying Ottawa was well removed from the company while the deal was being finalized. “We’re not making those types of decisions,” he said.
Kinder Morgan, for its part, said its updated selections were based solely on project-specific factors like safety, labour and materials costs, and the specific capabilities of contractors. “The goal is to ensure that we deliver the project in the best possible way,” Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Ali Hounsell told the Post in an interview before Ottawa took possession of the pipeline.
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