22 August 2006

Mobile labour force adapts to local downturns

From the Globe and Mail comes an article on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians working in other provinces - like Alberta - and returning home periodically.

The phenomenon of mobile labour is not a new one in the province. It has been happening in various ways for centuries. However, anecdotal reports from some areas of the province suggest that the migrant labour is now coming from communities in which the population was once stable and involves older workers.

The workers include former employees of Abitibi Consolidated's operation in Stephenville. When Abitibi closed their mill last year, the workers have quickly sought work in the forestry and related industries in other parts of Canada.

Other workers have skills needed in the Alberta oil industry. Collapse of talks to develop the Hebron field offshore Newfoundland in April meant that thousands of highly skilled construction workers have had to look outside the province for work. Many had looked forward to Hebron construction ramping up, having finished the Voisey's Bay nickel mine last year.

Newfoundland and Labrador's oil industry is generating considerable cash for the provincial government but production is not labour intensive. Except for a limited level of exploration, the industry appears to be settling into pumping oil from the three fields already in production.

The Hebron failure has also forced the province's local supply and service sector to look overseas for contracts.