The economic downturn in the energy sector claimed another 170 jobs Monday at two Edmonton-area plants.
PTI Group Inc. laid off workers at its west-Edmonton and Nisku locations, said Ken MacLean, director of marketing and communications.
The plants produce workforce accommodations for use in remote sites and normally employ a total of 500 people, he said. They were employed at two divisions of the company -- PTI Noble Structures and PTI Travco Modular Structures.
The reason for the layoffs is "no mystery," he said, citing a slowdown in the oilpatch and project cancellations in the oilsands.
"As those projects scale back, unfortunately, we have to respond with a balancing of our own staffing complement to meet the needs of the market," MacLean said.
"It is amazing how a few short months ago we -- as well as other companies -- were really hard-pressed to find the labour complement that would meet the demand of the market," he said. "Unfortunately in the last few months, with the downturn in the economy and its effect on the industry, it certainly has had a reverse effect."
MacLean said the company is tapping into government programs to help workers find new jobs.
"The bottom line is, eventually we understand there will be a turn in the market and we will want these people back again," he said.
News of the layoffs comes as the Alberta Federation of Labour prepares to release a new report today on the employment implications of the recent collapse in oilsands investment.
"There's a sense out there that everything will return to business as usual in the oilsands once the recession ends," AFL president Gil McGowan said in a news release.
"But we clearly can't make those kinds of assumptions.
"Our report is a wake-up call for the Alberta government and everyone else who is concerned about the future of our province's economy and labour market."
Edmonton Journal, Tues Mar 24 2009
It has been called Alberta's ticket to becoming part of Canada's second-largest economic region.
But whatever politicians want to call Bill 18, it officially ushers in Alberta's trade partnership with British Columbia on April 1.
Deputy premier Ron Stevens said the legislation enables the "nuts and bolts" of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement to go to work April 1.
Signed in 2006, the agreement allows lawyers in Edmonton to work in Vancouver, no problem. Or a marriage commissioner from Victoria to preside over a wedding in Red Deer.
A Calgary-based company can consider itself registered in British Columbia. And a charity in Grande Prairie can raise money in both provinces without worrying about creating a separate branch or bank account in Kelowna.
"What we're trying to do is eliminate stupid rules, or unnecessary rules that are nothing but a hindrance, a barrier to what business wants to do," Stevens said. "They're an additional unnecessary cost, so we're eliminating those.
"You should be able to do business, you should be able to move your labour around within Alberta or B.C. with very little legal impediment."
Critics say they never had a chance to argue the agreement's merits, but Stevens waved aside the complaint.
One key piece of Bill 18 is an amendment to the Government Organization Act, which allows ministers to change legislation or regulations to fit the agreement's needs.
It's a dangerous, unnecessary precedent-setter, Edmonton-Riverview Liberal MLA Kevin Taft said.
Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman compared it to the War Measures Act, which puts ultimate power in the hands of Canada's cabinet if national security is in danger.
NDP Leader Brian Mason spoke of the Third Reich and the slippery slope of giving a government untethered rights.
"The Conservatives have presented TILMA as an economic cure-all, some kind of bullet that will allow the Alberta economy to sail through the roughest seas," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said.
"What it is is a corporate bill of rights. We're afraid that TILMA may be used as a battering ram to open up doors that previously were closed."
Stevens has a list of reasons why the agreement will pay off for Albertans: workers will have seamless access to job opportunities, for example, and companies will have more chances to bid on government contracts in both provinces.
Edmonton Journal, Tues Mar 19 2009
Byline: Trish Audette
The Alberta Federation of Labour says the increased unemployment rate in Alberta last month only confirms that the province is not going to escape the economic downturn unscathed. President Gil McGowan says no one should be surprised that most of the job losses ocurred in the oilpatch and construction industry, but says he is concerned that manufacturing and retail jobs have also suffered.
Alberta's jobless rate in February came in at 5.4 percent from January's 4.4.
CHQR Newsroom, Fri Mar 13 2009
Stop the carnage, AFL says after job losses: Alberta job loss more than 29,000 so far this year; minister predicted 15,000
EDMONTON - An Alberta labour group is calling for the province to come up with a new stimulus plan for the economy after news Friday that 23,700 people were thrown out of work in February alone.
"The government needs to stop covering its eyes from the economic carnage building around them," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "We need immediate action to help protect jobs in Alberta."
The February job losses pushed the province's unemployment rate up a full percentage point to 5.4 per cent - the highest rate since June 2003.
Edmonton's rate climbed from 3.8 per cent in January to 4.4 per cent in February.
February's losses are on top of the 5,700 Alberta jobs Statistics Canada reported were lost in January - bringing the total so far in 2009 to 29,400.
Alberta Finance Minister Iris Evans had predicted that 15,000 Albertans would lose their jobs this year as the province entered "a very sharp period of recession."
"We've always said that we were not immune to the global recession," she said on Feb. 19. "Many Albertans in the province will face a difficult year. The best response at this time is to stay true to Alberta spirit."
McGowan called on the government to develop and implement a stimulus package that would focus on building key public infrastructure and keep Albertans working during the downturn.
"The government's dithering leaves us months behind other jurisdictions in responding to the crisis, but better late than never," said McGowan.
"The total job loss is now above 36,000 jobs in the last three months. How many more Albertans must lose their livelihood before this government acts?" asks McGowan.
He was concerned the job losses were no longer confined to construction and energy sectors. "Manufacturing shed 11,000 jobs last month. Retail lost 7,500 jobs. This says to me that the crisis is spreading to all sectors of Alberta's economy. And that is worrying," he said.
One Alberta-based bank economist called the job losses announced Friday surprisingly high.
"This February was the largest drop in employment Alberta has ever seen," said Todd Hirsch, senior economist for ATB Financial. "And it comes after a month in January when we also saw a very large drop in employment. It's a little surprising because often when you see a big drop, the following month it's a little bit of a bounce back."
The industries that lost most jobs were non-instructional educational services at 13,400; manufacturing 10,100; construction at 8,900 and wholesale and retail trade at 7,600.
Still, Alberta posted the third-lowest rate in the country behind Saskatchewan's 4.7 per cent and Manitoba's 4.8 per cent.
The national average was 7.7 per cent, a six-year high.
Edmonton Journal, Fri Mar 13 2009
Byline: Bill Mah
EDMONTON - The number of temporary foreign workers in Alberta doubled during the last two years of the boom to reach 57,843 - more than the population of Grande Prairie, Alta.
The new figures from Citizenship and Immigration show Alberta now has almost the same number of foreign workers as British Columbia, with 58,456 as of December 2008.
But as Canadian jobless figures rise, the fate of these workers in Alberta - mostly on two-year contracts in jobs ranging from engineers to welders and coffee-shop servers - is in question.
Even though Alberta shed 16,000 jobs in December and 5,700 in January, small businesses must continue to bring unskilled labour from overseas to staff hotels and restaurants because Canadians won't take those jobs, says Danielle Smith, Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan says it's a difficult situation, but the shrinking number of jobs in the province should be made available to Canadians first - even if that means foreign workers who lose their jobs have to leave.
Meanwhile, advocates say the workers arrive with the expectation of immigrating, and should be allowed to stay and become citizens after contributing to the economy.
Skilled oilpatch workers who suddenly find themselves unemployed won't take jobs in a downtown hotel for lower wages, Smith says.
"We've done such a great job of convincing Canadian-born students to go onto higher education and get trade training, that there's lots of jobs that are difficult to fill," she says.
The program should not be revised for a temporary downturn, says Smith, adding it's necessary to take the long view.
But McGowan says bringing in even more unskilled foreign workers during the downturn will continue to keep wages down in service and retail jobs.
"It's not that Canadians won't do those jobs; they won't do them at the wages being offered," he says.
Importing skilled workers for those jobs, meanwhile, should be curtailed, says McGowan. That means the federal government should quickly revise the list of 170 occupations defined as being in short supply - which still includes everything from petroleum engineers and welders to bakers, jewellers and barbers.
Edmonton Journal, Page A1, Thurs Feb 26 2009
Byline: Alexandra Zabjek and Sheila Pratt
The province said its oilsands strategic plan announced Thursday will benefit both industry and the environment, while sending a message to the world that Alberta's economic engine isn't going to throttle down anytime soon.
"I think it clearly sends a message to the rest of the country and the world that the oilsands are going to be developed, they're going to be developed for a long-time and they're going to be developed in an environmentally responsible way," said Lloyd Snelgrove, president of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat.
"So, the discussion isn't anymore are they going to be closed, are they going to be scaled down.
They're going to be developed."
Called Responsible Actions, the document is a 20-year strategic plan that will provide an integrated and coordinated policy approach to responsibly managing Alberta's oilsands areas (DOB, Feb. 12, 2009).
Industry reaction to the strategy was generally positive but low key.
"I see it as a roadmap. I think for us what's going to be critical is taking this roadmap and turning it into an implementation plan," said Greg Stringham, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' (CAPP) vice-president of markets and fiscal policy, said.
"The government has already said they're going to start moving in that direction and we're anxious to sit down with them."
Stringham said the strategy addresses many of the key issues that were identified during almost two years of oilsands consultations conducted previously. However, much work remains to be done before full-scale implementation can occur.
"I think that on all of the various strategies in the report, we're going to have to sit down with (government) and say, 'How do we turn this into either policy or an action plan as we move forward," Stringham said.
"You start with a strategy, move to the objective and then you move to the implementation plan. I think that's what will occur."
One of Canada's largest oilsands producers is also taking a wait and see approach.
"At this early stage we are very supportive of having a long-term view for the industry," said Shawn Davis, Suncor Energy Inc. spokeswoman.
"We're looking forward now to sitting down with other industry members and the government to flesh out the details."
Until that process takes place, Davis said it's too early to offer effective comment on the package presented Thursday by the province.
"At this point in time it's a little difficult to comment on the details or practical applications because the report has a lot of over-arching strategies rather than specifics," she said.
"We are absolutely supportive of those over-arching strategies but it's really hard for us to say how (the strategy) is going to relate to our business, whether we're supportive or not supportive of the practical application of it, because it's just not in there at this point in time."
With some critics labeling the provincial government's newly-minted oilsands strategic plan no more than a 47-page public relations exercise with little substance, Premier Ed Stelmach was on the defensive yesterday.
"Some one said today, 'Where's the teeth?' Well this is the brains. It's laying out a long-range plan to work together in a coordinated approach so that we develop this world class resource responsibly," Stelmach told reporters in Edmonton.
"It's really a framework for a growing and greener economy."
The premier said that dialogue with industry and other stakeholders will be key to moving the strategy forward, although he offered no timelines and few details as to how and when those efforts will commence.
"This is the roadmap for the future and I'm confident that with working together with industry and all parties that have an interest in this area that we're going to manage our environmental impacts and social impacts as well," he said.
The head of an oilsands' group said industry is keen to work with government to begin discussions on how the plan will be rolled out.
"It allows us to get on with development of what is a pretty important resource," Don Thompson, president of the Oil Sands Developers Group, an industry organization, said. "We look forward to working with the government."
Stelmach was adamant that the timing of the release of the strategy had nothing to do with the pending Canadian stopover of United States President Barack Obama, who makes his first official visit to Canada on Feb. 19.
"(Work on the strategy) started two years ago and I don't think that President Obama even thought he was going to be a candidate two years ago. It's all speculation," he said.
With the strategy offering little immediate guidance, the premier was asked what the government was going to do to help bring back the industry, which because of the current market and financial crisis and low commodity prices, has seen a massive scale back of proposed projects of late.
Stelmach sidestepped the question and instead said the current downturn will allow the oilsands sector to catch its breath and prepare itself for when an economic rebound occurs.
"The oilsands operators are investing a considerable amount of money - billions - and are now taking this time during the downturn to maintain their plants and that's going to allow them to catch up," he said.
"As well, as some of the operating costs and other costs related to new development come down, we'll see the investment come back."
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) was one of the more vocal critics of the Tory plan. It said that Premier Stelmach's promise to keep oilsands jobs in Alberta instead of shipping them down a pipeline to the U.S. seems to have been compromised.
"What this document says is that government will 'urge' and 'encourage' big energy players to diversify the industry. But what it doesn't say is that the government will actually intervene," says Gil McGowan, AFL president.
"This kind of limp language is cold comfort to the thousands of construction and energy workers who have lost their jobs over the past two months - and the thousands of others who will almost certainly meet the same fate over the next year."
McGowan said the report downgrades the government's promise to upgrade and refine more bitumen in the province to an "aspirational goal."
At the same time, the report says the government will "encourage the development of more outbound pipelines - which, up to this point, have been little more than bitumen superhighways, taking raw bitumen (and potential Alberta jobs) to refiners in the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast," McGowan said.
The AFL also believes the plan seems to accept the argument - "advanced by industry groups like the CAPP" - that Alberta actually needs to ship more raw bitumen to the U.S. in order to "find a better market price."
McGowan says that by embracing this argument, the government has basically given up on its previous promises to champion value-added jobs.
"The Tories can't have it both ways. Either you believe we should create value-added jobs here or you believe that raw bitumen should be shipped to the States," McGowan said.
"This report suggests the government has sided with the big upstream energy players who want to export more raw bitumen. As a result, everything else in the report dealing with the subject of value added jobs is little more than lip service."
The recommendations will do little to slow the pace of development or improve environmental controls, said Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute, a non-profit Alberta-based group that researches environmental policy.
"It's a plan to do more planning," Dyer, the group's oilsands director, said. "It lacks specifics, timelines and accountability. There's nothing binding."
Daily Oil Bulletin, Fri Feb 13 2009
Byline: Paul Wells
Oil sands layoffs coming down pipeline; The impact of reduced captial spending budgets is beginning to make itself felt in service providers
CALGARY -- The big retreat from plans to expand oil sands projects has begun to show up in job losses and declines in expected corporate revenue.
Flint Energy Services Ltd. slashed between $100-million and $150-million from its 2009 revenue outlook yesterday and announced a spate of immediate layoffs, adding its name to a rapidly growing list of oil field service companies that are cutting staff and gearing down.
On Wednesday, international steel maker Evraz Group SA announced 400 layoffs across Western Canada, following industry giants Schlumberger Ltd. and Halliburton Co., which are letting go more than 2,000 people as the air rushes out of energy spending plans.
Fully $200-billion in planned developments have been deferred, delayed or cancelled in the past six months, according to a recent tally compiled by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI).
While the prospect of reduced activity in the oil sands is now hitting home in the energy sector, the effects are expected to soon wash across the wider provincial and national economies.
The latest deferral came from western giant Suncor Energy Inc., which on Tuesday iced work on its two major projects - an upgrader and oil sands expansion - and cut its 2009 capital budget in half to $3-billion.
In the oil sands alone, capital spending plans for this year have now declined to about $13-billion from an expected $20-billion, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said yesterday. Across the industry, capital projections in 2009 have dropped by $10-billion to $40-billion as companies race to hoard cash in the face of basement oil prices.
The impact on the economy is, however, likely to be far greater than those numbers would suggest. In 2005, CERI calculated that every dollar spent on big oil projects stokes nearly $2.50 in further spending in Alberta, plus another roughly $2.50 in the rest of Canada. In other words, a $10-billion decrease in energy spending translates into about $60-billion in lost economic activity across the country.
"If this trend continues of lower oil prices and the costs of these projects do not come down proportionately, we will be seeing more and more of these cancellations and more and more of these ripples affecting the rest of the economy," said CERI president and chief executive officer Marwan Masri.
That prospect has prompted a round of gloomy reflection across the country, as the companies that supply big energy producers attempt to grasp how the sudden changes will affect them.
"It's something that we are giving a lot of thought to," said Gary Love, the chief financial officer at Toronto-based ShawCor Ltd., whose subsidiaries include the world's largest applicator of pipeline coatings.
Although the company's main focus is on supplying services for major pipelines such as TransCanada's Keystone and Enbridge's Alberta Clipper, Mr. Love is now considering what to do if oil sands cuts hurt other parts of his business in coming months.
"We can reduce shifts - these are the sorts of things that one would consider should the need be there," he said. "But we haven't seen that yet and we don't know if we will or when we will."
Those who track Alberta's needs are, however, worried. The Construction Owners Association of Alberta maintains a graph showing how many workers will be required based on plans to build projects worth $100-million or more. Last October, more than 70 projects fit that description, and the association forecast a rise in demand to about 43,000 people by the second quarter of 2010. The recent round of spending cuts has prompted it to halve that number.
"It's very sobering for us, and it certainly should be a warning flag for industry and government when it comes to planning for the future," said association spokesman Lloyd Dick. "If these projects aren't running, there's going to be significantly less demand for heavy industrial labour for the future."
Yet if there is indeed a greater storm coming, it is only beginning to make itself felt. As recently as the first week of January, a spokesman for Calgary- based Flint told reporters that his company was still feeling the pinch of 1, 000 empty positions, and the volume of existing work has kept the industry busy enough to avoid many layoffs.
"Right now there are a lot of projects still on the go, but the big question is what happens after those projects are complete, and at this point there is absolutely nothing on the horizon to replace what's currently under construction," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"We're currently in what I would describe as the afterglow of the boom. The boom itself is over, but the day of reckoning hasn't arrived yet."
The Globe and Mail, Fri Jan 23 2009
Byline: Nathan Vanderklippe
Unions in B.C. and Alberta are demanding changes be made to the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program to allow for permanent residency.
However, this pathway to citizenship has already been rejected by the federal government, despite a report recommending otherwise.
"We believe there should be something like the Canadian Experience Class that applies to the construction industry," said Wayne Peppard, executive director of the British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council (BCYT-BCTC).
"If you are going to invite temporary foreign workers to come to work, they must be able to move into the industry they have experience in. They should be able to come and have an access portal to become fully landed."
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recently released a report on the temporary foreign worker program, after traveling across the country to gather information The report focuses on specific issues including the transition from temporary to permanent resident and recommends that TFWs have the chance to gain residency.
"The committee believes that all temporary foreign workers in the current programs should have the opportunity to apply for permanent residency after meeting certain criteria, an opportunity not currently universally available to them," said the report.
"The committee recognizes that many workers and employers desire their employment arrangement to be permanent and we feel that permanent migration is in Canada's best interests."
The Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) recently released a report of its own recommending that TFWs be allowed to stay. The report by the AFL's temporary foreign worker advocate said Alberta's Immigrant Nominee Program, the only avenue available to most foreign workers for permanent residence, is too restrictive and far too small to be effective.
"Only four per cent of foreign workers are accepted into the program, even though the bulk of foreign workers come with the expectation and hope of permanent settlement, which was deliberately fostered by brokers and the government," it said.
In contrast, the committee report was impressed with the way Saskatchewan and Manitoba use the TFW program to meet long-term labour market demand.
"Their strategic approach and collaboration between business, government, and community sectors is a good news story that might be of interest to other jurisdictions," it states. "
All measures should be taken to facilitate the transition from temporary worker to permanent resident through the provincial nominee avenue."
In response to the union demands, Conservative committee members submitted a minority report that rejects the recommendation.
"We oppose any move to alter the design of the temporary foreign worker to make it a permanent program in all but name," said Rick Dykstra, parliamentary secretary to the minister of citizenship and immigration. "That would undermine the integrity of the federal skilled worker program and, thus, our immigration system."
The committee also recommended that immediate family members be allowed to get an open work permit and a fee be collected from employers for emergency support of the unemployed.
However, Dykstra said the program shouldn't allow family members into the labour market without a separate Labour Market Opinion.
"In rural communities, an influx of individuals with open work permits would drastically distort the local labour market, displacing local youth and Canadian visible minorities from entry level employment positions, essentially pricing them out of the local labour market," he said.
Other committee recommendations include: discontinuing employer specific work permits; penalties against employers who abuse workers and fail to comply with contractual obligations; providing information about unscrupulous recruiters and report cases of abuse to law enforcement agencies; and monitoring of working and living conditions.
"The standing committee report is the first acknowledgement by federal politicians about the radical impact of the guest worker program on Canadian society and economy," said Peppard.
"Now it's up to the government and minister Kenney to stop the abuse and exploitation of temporary foreign workers."
Journal of Commerce, Mon Jun 1 2009
Byline: Richard Gilbert
CALGARY - The effects of plunging oil prices on Alberta's once red hot economy will stretch well beyond the oil laden province's boundaries, touching everything from Ontario steel pipe producers to federal government coffers.
Crude prices settled below US$50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange for the first time in three years last week. That is only a third of its all-time high of $147 reached less than five months ago.
The languishing crude prices, combined an increasingly uncertain financial picture, have caused many oilsands producers in Alberta to scale back or delay their multibillion-dollar projects.
Economic growth in Alberta is expected to ebb to levels not seen in more than two decades. Job growth will level off after years of four or five per cent growth and housing prices in a once overheated market are tumbling.
"It will spill over on the national picture," Scotiabank commodities specialist Patricia Mohr said.
Legal and accounting firms in downtown Toronto's financial hub will be less busy in the coming years, as their Western Canadian clients take a breather.
"I'm sure there are many equipment manufacturers in Ontario who will be impacted also," Mohr added.
Oilsands projects require an enormous amount of steel, much of which is manufactured in Ontario. Steel prices globally are expected to be lower - not just because of curbed activity in the oilsands, but because of a worldwide economic slowdown in general, Mohr added.
ShawFlex, a division of Toronto-based energy services company ShawCor Ltd.(TSX:SCL.A), provides electrical cables to many oil and gas companies, said sales representative Mark Sparano.
"Because the projects are typically six months to a year out, we're seeing a minor slowdown, but nothing too major," he said.
"We're seeing a little bit of hesitation with some of the final purchase orders being placed, however our prospects are still looking fairly well."
Finning International Inc. (TSX:FTT), a Vancouver-headquartered company that provides heavy equipment to the oilsands, will be busy in the Fort McMurray, Alta., area next year, said Tom Merinsky, vice-president of investor relations.
Established oilsands projects will keep pressing ahead, and new projects like Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.'s (TSX:CNQ) Horizon mine and Royal Dutch Shell's Jackpine site are close to completion.
"They have equipment on order with us for their existing operations. We'll continue to deliver that. We'll continue to service that equipment," Merinsky said.
As for the series of project delays that have been announced in recent weeks, Finning won't feel the effects for a long time.
"Those won't be business for us until they get much closer to getting into production. So that's not current business for us. The equipment we would be selling them could be two years out before delivery is required," Merinsky said.
Scotiabank's Mohr said government revenues will be "hugely impacted" by slower energy development in Alberta, as Ottawa garners less in income taxes and corporate taxes.
Lower corporate taxes are a big part of why the federal government is expected to post a deficit of $3.9 billion in the 2009-2010 fiscal year starting next April 1, according to estimates from Parliament's chief budget officer.
When oil prices started climbing in the past few years, it sparked a frenzy of construction activity in the oilsands. Energy companies scrambled to get enough workers to push their massive projects ahead.
Exhausting the Alberta market, companies brought in labourers from other parts of Canada and abroad.
"The boom that we've been experiencing here in Alberta isn't really an energy boom, it's a construction boom. So when the construction projects dry up, the work will dry up as well, not just in Fort McMurray, but across the province," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Without those construction jobs, it's inevitable that we'll see a huge drop in people coming from other parts of the country to find work here."
The job situation will probably begin to deteriorate in Alberta in about six months time if the global market situation does not improve, McGowan said.
"When the current batch of projects are completed over the next six to 18 months, there won't be a new batch of projects to replace them and provide employment for these thousands of construction workers."
Even though workers from places like Newfoundland and Labrador stop flooding into Fort McMurray at the same rate, McGowan said he is not expecting a massive out-migration from the province.
"But only because there's no better place to be," he said.
Hamilton Spectator, Sunday, November 23, 2008
A private security company has been charged with failing to ensure the safety of a female employee who was raped while working alone two years ago.
Garda Canada Security Corp. has been charged with one count under the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act for not ensuring, as far as reasonable, the health and safety of a worker.
It is the first time a company has been charged because of a sexual assault, said Occupational Health spokesman Chris Chodan. Usually, the charge is connected to other workplace incidents, such as an accident.
"Usually, when it's violence, it's a straight-up criminal offence," he said. "In this case, it was a criminal act by the person who committed it and there was a work-related issue on top of that."
The charge was laid Oct. 31 -- just under the two-year time limit -- in connection to the Nov. 1, 2006, attack on a woman working overnight alone at a construction site on Macleod Trail.
The victim had only been on the job a few days when she was working at the site, which was secured by only a tarp.
She called 911 when she heard banging and shouting and police were dispatched to the site. Before they arrived, Renno Allen Lonechild attacked and raped the then-34-year-old woman.
During court proceedings, it was learned the woman -- a former teacher in an African country -- was new to Canada, had limited English, only one day of training and one week on the job.
Lonechild, 21, was sentenced to eight years in prison in September for sexual assault and unlawful confinement after pleading guilty in court.
Chodan said investigators often wait for any criminal proceedings to be completed before examining the incidents and forwarding the files to the Crown to determine if charges can be laid.
Joe Gavaghan, spokesman for Garda World Security Corp., confirmed the company's attorneys have received the documents outlining the charge, but would not say anything further.
"Because the matter is in litigation, we're not able to comment at this time," he said.
The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour said he was surprised to hear charges had been laid against an employer in this case, especially in light of the federation's ongoing fight to improve working-alone legislation.
"Given they've laid charges, it shows there is a recognition at some level in government that a problem exists," Gil McGowan said.
The essential problem in this case -- that an employee was harmed while working alone -- reinforces the need for more aggressive legislation to ensure it doesn't happen again, McGowan said.
Since it falls under Occupational Health legislation, the charge is vague, he said.
"What is the specific failure of the employer?"
The matter is expected to be heard in Calgary provincial court on Jan. 8.
Calgary Herald, Wed Nov 12, 2008
Byline: Gwendolyn Richards