Economy- Trade, transit unions differ over Keystone pipeline job creation – Daily Nebraskan

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

Apr. 15, 2013

The number and types of jobs to be created by the Keystone XL pipeline project has continued to be one of the main controversies surrounding the issue, with trade unions backing – and transit unions opposing – construction of the proposed pipeline extension.

Job creation predictions from the construction and operation of the pipeline have come up with a number of conflicting estimates, mostly because of uncertainty about the timeline of the project and different methods for calculating employment creation.

The most recent report from the U.S. Department of State predicts 35 permanent positions will be created during the operational phase of the pipeline, along with 15 temporary contractor positions. The majority of the jobs created from the pipeline project would come during the construction phase, with about 3,900 estimated temporary construction jobs to be created, according to the state department’s report, which was published in early March.

Much of the controversy over job creation from the Keystone XL pipeline has revolved around the fact many of the new jobs will only be temporary positions and will not benefit workers once the pipeline is completed.

Trade union leaders, however, say even temporary jobs will benefit workers and their industries.

Ronald Kaminski, business manager and secretary treasurer for the Midwest Region of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the nature of construction work is fundamentally temporary, anyway.

“Every project in construction is temporary,” Kaminski said. “You build a building, and it’s done. You build a pipeline, and then it’s done.”

Kaminski said he considers the predicted construction jobs from the pipeline project to be substantial, however, because they will last longer than many other of the projects for which construction workers are hired.

If approved, the pipeline is scheduled to be completed within one or two years, with seasonal construction jobs lasting from four to eight months, according to the state department report.

“This will be huge if it is approved,” Kaminski said. “It will mean jobs for Americans, good-paying jobs with benefits. We’ve worked with TransCanada in the past and have created a solid relationship with them.”

From previous oil pipeline projects, Kaminski estimated construction workers made an average of $25 to $40 an hour, and the work lasted for about two years.

All of the building unions have expressed support for the Keystone XL pipeline project, but several of the largest transit unions have said they oppose the project because the jobs it will create are increasing America’s dependence on tar sands oil.

James Little, president of the Transport Workers Union, and Larry Hanley, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, have both voiced their opposition to the pipeline project.

“We need jobs, but not ones based on increasing our reliance on tar sands oil,” they said in a joint statement in August 2011. “There is no shortage of water and sewage pipelines that need to be fixed or replaced, bridges and tunnels that are in need of emergency repair, transportation, infrastructure that needs to be renewed and developed. Many jobs could also be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintain and expanding public transportation – jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.”

Kaminski said many of the transit unions are opposed to the pipeline, however, because more oil will be transported through the pipeline than using trucks, railways and other forms of transit transportation.

“The pipeline means less jobs for their industry,” Kaminski said.

The state department report estimated that 42,100 overall jobs would be supported throughout the United States through the construction of the pipeline, including employment across all industries. Residents in the four states the pipeline would cross – Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas – would hold about 12,000 of the jobs, or about 29 percent. The remaining jobs would occur in other states across the country in industries like trade, professional services, lodging and food services.

Other studies about the number of jobs created by the pipeline project vary greatly from the state department’s report.

TransCanada released its own report in January 2012 that said the Keystone XL project would create 20,000 jobs, with 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 jobs in manufacturing, according to a press release.

The pipeline would be broken down into 17 U.S. segments, with 500 workers employed for each segment, or 8,500 jobs. The project also needs 30 different pump stations, each requiring about 100 workers. Another 1,600 jobs would be needed for the construction camps in Cushing, Okla., and the various management and inspection oversight jobs associated with the construction process, according to the TransCanada press release.

Both the government’s report and TransCanada have broken down their job estimates into the specific types of jobs that would be created by the pipeline project. The extensive list includes positions such as engineer, safety coordinator, oiler, operator, laborer, foreman and office manager, among others.

Researchers at Cornell University conducted an independent study to look into the job creation estimates released by TransCanada and the American Petroleum Institute.

In the study – “Pipe Dreams?” – Lara Skinner and Sean Sweeney, from Cornell’s Global Labor Institute, found previous job creation estimates to be inflated and said the pipeline project would create no more than 2,500 to 4,650 temporary direct construction jobs over the two years of the construction period. Skinner and Sweeney also said TransCanada’s claim that the project will create 20,000 direct construction and manufacturing jobs is unsubstantiated.

Spokesman for TransCanada Shawn Howard said discrepancies in the estimated number of jobs that will be created from the pipeline construction come mostly from differences in how these jobs have been defined by others.

“At times, it’s been how others have described jobs that has created some confusion,” Howard said. “TransCanada has been clear: the entire Keystone XL and Gulf Coast pipeline projects will support 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs.”

Howard said some job estimates for the pipeline have been calculated using person years versus actual jobs, meaning that one person working on the pipeline for two years would count as two jobs.



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