Suncor Energy has signed a 10-year agreement with a third-party contractor to operate its lodges north of Fort McMurray resulting in more than 200 people losing their jobs.
On May 16, the Calgary-based company signed an agreement with Dene Koe Workforce Lodging & Service, which is a joint partnership between Noralta Lodge and the Fort McKay First Nation. ESS First North Catering, in partnership with Compass Group Canada, has held the contract since 2001, after Compass bought Beaver Foods.
Paul Newmarch with Suncor Media Relations tells Mix News the decision was made as part of Suncor’s focus on cost management.
“We continue to look for opportunities to reduce cost and focus resource on our core business. So while we anticipate cost savings, a significant driver that the agreement would be focusing resources on our core business which is not operating lodges.”
With the change in contractors, 205 employees at Suncor’s Borealis and Millennium lodges will be out of work and must move out of the lodges by the end of the business day on June 21, according to Ian Robb, President of Local 47, the union that represents the workers.
“Out of the 205, 155 are from Alberta, 50 are outside of Alberta and Canada, and 48 call Fort McMurray their home,” said Robb. “I was approached by a number of our members at Base Plant yesterday (Tuesday) that said last year their houses burnt to the ground and this year they lost their job. They went from the heroes helping the community out in the camps when their houses were burning to being unemployed by that same contractor.”
Robb says the employees, who are in charge of catering, cleaning rooms and janitorial at the lodges, had recently gone through a ratification process through their collective agreement to roll back their double time on weekends, which he notes they thought would get them an extension on the existing contract ESS had with Suncor.
“This a slap, it really is. I had to sit in front of all the members yesterday (Tuesday) along with the president of ESS North America while he gave the bad news to confirm all the rumors and I’ll tell ya, it was a tough day for those workers.”
The spokesperson for Noralta Blaire McCalla says they’ve told Suncor they are there always looking for talented and hospitality focused individuals to join their team.
“As we ramp up we will be looking for new employees to join us. We have a flexible staffing model which allows us to ramp up and round down based on the needs of the region and so we’re anticipating when we take over those lodges and Suncor’s needs in the Base Plant area that we will likely need to adds members to our team depending on what those occupancy levels will look like.”
Newmarch notes there was a formal bid process open to vendors best able to meet Suncor’s criteria, which included use for an exclusive third-party lodge operator, overall cost benefit for Suncor, access to a large number of lodge rooms that Suncor requires, and the ability to minimize the potential impact for Suncor lodge guests.
Starting June 16, Suncor guests at Base Plant will primarily stay at Noralta Village.