Brokering excellence on Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Program

Labor brokers providing top-notch Indigenous workers for project contractors in Western Canada

They’re known as labor brokers, and they’re a key cog in the Indigenous workforce machinery.

The Battleford Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC), headquartered in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, is one of four Indigenous organizations providing labor brokering services to Enbridge on our Line 3 Replacement Program.

The BATC’s relationship with Enbridge dates back to 2008, when about 100 of its members were employed on the Alberta Clipper pipeline project.

“Some have moved on but I’d say about 70 of them are still in the pipeline industry,” says BATC Placement Manager Vince Sauvie, whose organization represents the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, Moosomin First Nation, Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Sweetgrass First Nation, Stoney Knoll First Nation, Saulteaux First Nation and Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation.

“To me, Enbridge opened the door for our First Nations people to get into the pipeline industry,” adds Sauvie. “Alberta Clipper was a good stepping stone for their education.”

Labor brokers manage numerous aspects of a worker’s employment, such as recruitment, interviewing, administration and transportation. Their involvement is a key component of Enbridge’s strategy to maximize Indigenous employment on the L3RP.

More than 600 Indigenous workers have been employed on the project through the use of these brokers alone. Overall, as of November, a total of more than 1,100 Indigenous men and women—approximately 20 percent of the total construction workforce—have been employed in 2018.

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About 150 BATC members are currently working for Enbridge contractors on the L3RP, including Kara Pooyak, an experienced heavy equipment operator from Sweetgrass First Nation—about 35 km west of North Battleford—who’s worked on pipelines for the past 15 years.

“My first job was a general laborer and since then I have gained experience on various crews within the industry,” she says. “I eventually broke out in 2012 as a sideboom operator on the Surmont 2 oilsands project. In the past six years, I’ve been hiring out as a sideboom operator.”

One of the keys to Pooyak's success is her versatility and willingness to learn new skills.

“I’ve run stringing tractor, bending, set up, setting in tractor, packed shack, bore support, and tie-in tractor,” says Pooyak, who’s now running tractor on a Banister Pipelines L3RP boring crew southeast of Regina.

The File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, the Manitoba Métis Federation, and the Southern Chiefs Organization Inc. also provide labor brokering services on the L3RP, whose construction phase in Canada will soon wrap up.

(TOP PHOTO: Kara Pooyak operates a sideboom as part of a bending crew on Enbridge's Line 3 Replacement Program.)