In Kitimat, British Columbia, 1,600 workers are currently employed on the $3.3 billion modernization of an aluminum smelter. The project began in 2011 and is scheduled to be completed in late 2014. It is being built under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that allows for flexible scheduling, something that is necessary to prevent labor shortages and to battle the climate:
Climate is certainly a challenge. However, our schedule and work sequence has been taking this into consideration,” said Kitimat Modernization Project (KMP) project director Michel Lamarre.
“We understand that efficiency is not as good in winter and we have sequenced the work in such a way that the bulk of the concrete and steel erection is taking place in during the more clement weather seasons.
“We are making sure that mechanical work that needs to take place in winter will be done under covered areas.”
The project was a victim of the economic downturn and was running at half speed due to low aluminum prices and fears of further economic degradation. But when Rio Tinto, owners of the aluminum smelter, came up with an additional $2.7 billion investment last December, the project went from having a workforce of 600 to employing 1,600. The job is likely to keep the Coalition of British Columbia Building Trade Unions working for the next two years.
The PLA has also mandated local hiring and maintained impressively high standards:
Olsen said more than 50 per cent of the workers are from Kitimat and Terrace.
Most of the remainder are from other regions of B.C. and a few are from other parts of Canada.
Olsen said the project has yet to run into labor shortages, but there is one exception.
High-reach shear operators, who are specialists in demolition, have been in short supply.
Some workers are being trained in new areas to perform work in later stages of the project.
“People are being trained in concrete pouring, cement finishing and scaffold erection, either by their unions or by colleges in the region,” Olsen said.