May 2010

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Canadian Members Use Unique Skills on Gas Line Project

It's not every day that an electrician also gets to tackle heavy jobs like bolting and welding 1,000-pound steel I-beams. But in Regina, Saskatchewan, such tasks can be novel – if challenging – parts of the workday for Local 2038 members.

A 21-person crew from signatory contractor Ganotec put the finishing touches on a section of a pipeline that will funnel thousands of barrels of gas each day from Edmonton, Alberta, to Chicago. The six-month job for Houston-based Enbridge Energy Partners included constructing a massive support structure to secure the high-voltage equipment that feeds power from a nearby substation to the project site.

Such construction jobs are normally within the ironworkers' jurisdiction. But in Saskatchewan, any structure being built solely for the use of electrical equipment becomes the IBEW's responsibility. In these rare occasions, workers put down their screwdrivers and pick up spud wrenches.

"You never know when you're going to get thrown a curve ball like we had on this project," said Local 2038 Business Manager Gary Vieser. "This was a good opportunity for members to broaden their skills beyond what they learn in their apprenticeships. To stay competitive, we've got to be on the ball – so when a company makes a request, we can deliver."

With the aging workforce, it's imperative for young workers to get this kind of on-the-job training from senior members – many of whom will begin retiring in waves within five years, Vieser said. "There's going to be a big vacuum," Vieser said. "And our younger workers are enthusiastic and want to get as much experience as possible." Completed last summer, the project provided 300,000 man hours for local union members.

Regina, Saskatchewan, Local 2038 members built and wired a structure to secure high-voltage equipment.