I Salute Our Energy Workers
Thanks for making the many things that we depend on in our daily lives possible
By Wayne Prins, Executive Director
A couple of months ago, CLAC’s national leadership team travelled to Fort McMurray, Alberta, for three days of meetings. We had a full agenda, but we considered it a priority to carve out a few hours to bring the entire group—about 20 of us—to meet members on site at an oilsands construction project.
It’s no small task to get a group of 20 people on to a site these days. A number of colleagues had to shave beards that hadn’t been for many years, which I thought was a classy show of commitment to make the visit possible. Being clean-shaven is a requirement to visit a live site in Fort McMurray to ensure a respirator can be fitted in the event of an emergency gas leak.
It was particularly gratifying for me to see the team that I work so closely with from across the country lined up single-file at the security gate to receive their visitor pass—the same security gate I passed through weekly some 20 years ago at the beginning of my career as a CLAC representative in Fort McMurray.
It’s not possible to adequately capture in words the experience of visiting an oilsands site for the first time. The enormity of the operation, the sounds, the smells, the vibration you feel in the ground, the complexity of everything you are seeing, the constant movement of people and vehicles and machines in every direction. It is truly awe-inspiring—even overwhelming—to witness the scale of the oilsands industry up close and personal.
Even after visiting such sites routinely, I still find it incredible that so many members work on these sites every day. First-time visitors usually feel very uncomfortable in such an intense environment, yet experienced members feel as secure navigating these sites as they do their backyards.
It is workers like these who make our comfortable lives possible. The work they do heats our homes, powers our vehicles, lights up our schools and hospitals, brings food to our tables and clothes to our backs. They make every technology we take for granted possible.
About half of CLAC’s 60,000-plus membership works in the energy sector. Since the year 2000, members have performed well over $200 billion worth of work in Canada’s energy sector. We are the largest union working in the oilsands, we are the largest union working in the Canadian pipeline industry, and we are the largest union constructing Canada’s renewable energy infrastructure.
I have never felt more proud than when I was joined by our leadership team on site overlooking a remarkable oilsands construction project where nearly 1,000 CLAC members were busy at work.
As you gather in your warm homes this Christmas, or travel to the tropics to escape the cold, and as you shop for groceries and presents, I invite you to join me in a big salute to all the members who work in Canada’s energy sector. Thanks for making the many things that we depend on in our daily lives possible.