TFWs (Temporary Foreign Workers): Told Ya So….

Yesterday the news was buzzing in an area close to a union man’s heart (union woman’s too) and that would be TFWs! It seems that Pacer Corp laid off close to 100 people, with a large majority being Ironworkers, and are bringing in cheap replacements from Croatia! Bravo Stephen Harper you killer of our country! How dare you create and support programs that take money and jobs away from Canadians! You are proof positive that absolute power corrupts absolutely!

While we’re on the topic I feel a little vindicated personally.  I have been predicting this and wondered for a while whether I was just imagining things. It turns out I was right! Now not only does our oil leave the country for processing but the money that is made up in the sands is leaving too.  The trickle-down theory of economics suggested that for every new dollar introduced into an economy it is spent three times before it leaves that economy meaning that each new dollar acts like $3 new dollars in terms of impact. So each of these guys making $120k working up away from their families in the harsh conditions of Fort Mac won’t be bringing that check home now.  The ones who come from little communities across Canada won’t be having a +$360K impact on their local economy and will be drawing more from programs that aids those who are losing everything. Thanks, Steve! Thanks for that! At least the local hard working kids will have those valuable Tim Horton’s jobs! But they better apply fast because with the country being steered by ‘Big Money” Harper their tradespeople parents may well be applying for those jobs as well!


Tuck and Roll

Its a freezing Saturday morning and I am sitting in the train station on the last leg of my journey home. I was supposed to work until Tuesday but my hernia started to act up and I pulled the plug yesterday afternoon taking a medical leave. I won’t miss the company I was working for and am glad to have them in my rearview mirror. Seeing as how they finally read my blog which hasn’t been that complimentary (I call a spade a spade) they are probably pretty happy to have me gone. To quote William Shakespeare:

“Love me or hate me, both are in my favor…If you love me, I’ll always be in your heart…If you hate me, I’ll always be in your mind.”

I did enjoy my crew there and my Foreman was good too. The work I did was ironwork which involved a good deal of connecting and other fun things but the idiosyncrasies of that place got me down. The lack of warm-up shacks for instance meant that when I was freezing cold and went to warm up it was often in buildings where you could see your breath. Not much of a warm-up, eh? Theoretically they had pens in the tool crib but as they tended to be on back order I always ended up bringing them from home. There is more, but if you’ve been reading this you will already know the many unnecessary inconveniences that exist there, where at other companies they don’t. Page turned. Chapter over!

For now I will be home for a while. I need to get this hernia fixed so that is priority number one. In the meantime I can take some courses and keep practising my French every day as I strive to reach some level of fluency in that language. Its a bucket list thing for me so I will keep at it. I also want to go through the blog, identify the ‘best’ of what I have written (over 300 entries now between the two blogs and over 20,000 page views) and then edit them up. The plan is to see if I can sell them to the newspapers in Alberta. It may not happen but I will try. There is also a book whose plot has been developing daily in my mind that I would like to start writing which is another little project that I want to pursue.

My first step will be minor adjustments to the blog. A couple of people who I respect asked me to remove them from the blog and I will do that later today. If it was anyone else asking I would charge them money to adjust it but these two guys are straight up and good people so I will honour their wishes.

Now I head home to that good woman who I began dating 30 years ago and who I married 25 years ago. I miss her so much when I am booming out that this little forced time off will allow for some ‘us’ time. After all, isn’t that why I am working so far away in the first place? It will be nice to see my giant son and my beautiful daughter again as well although neither lives at home any more. So life is what you make of it and for me it is all good!

Stay safe my union brothers and sisters. I’ll see you on the flip side.

A Reprieve From the Doorway to Hell

Normally the weather up in The Mac is like a doorway to Hell. In the summer it is hotter and sweatier than a cattle car in a desert and the winter is so cold ice forms on your moustache in seconds. Occasionally though, we get a reprieve and then, for a very short while, it is like working in heaven. Yesterday was one of those days.

From first thing in the morning yesterday it was beautiful out. Up at our site we were able to dress in far less layers than normal. The day started at around -3 C and by day’s end it was up to +5 C. After first break I was down to my 2 undershirts, a hoodie and my vest. The vest and the hoodie were unzipped to vent the steam rising up from my chest in a faint steamy plume. For once, my usually numb fingers were warm and pink. It was all good.

Ghislain and I were working in the neutralization tanks building our little pipe support structures. We were the connecters and Yvan (assisted by Robert) were hooking on our pieces, some from just outside the tanks and the handrail from the other side of the tanks within the ‘swimming pool’ that makes up this area. Ghislain was calling in the pieces using the radio as the RT130 crane which we were using sat not just on the other side of the building but it was also across the road. Being Acadian French Ghislain’s accent drifted through the radio waves and out into the open air.
“Boom down hold the lift… booming down… Booming down hold the lift…” Normally you say ‘hold the load’ but the operator knew what he was doing. We have worked with Tyson before and though he is still fairly young he is a really good operator.
“Swing to your leff…” Ghislain continued with his French accent coming through “tree feet,… Two feet…stop!” He is looking high up at the piece which is dangling 60 feet above us. Not directly overhead as being under a load isn’t terribly safe. As the signal man he has to gauge how to get that piece exactly where we need it. “Coming down on da load… Twenty more feet to go… Coming down… Stop!”
The piece, which in this case is a frame about 3 feet high, is dangling about 5 feet in the air. I have a hold on the tagline which is tied to the piece so that we can control it in close. “Swing leff tree feet… and stop.”
The piece is now directly over the anchor bolt sticking out of the concrete ‘pier’ on the ground. Two anchor bolts stick out of each side. “Coming down slowly about five feet… slowly… coming down …”
I am now on my knees beside the piece steering it onto the bolts. Ghislain has the radio mic in one hand and is steering the piece with the other. “…and stop!”
The piece is almost on. We lined up the holes and the bolts are just showing themselves at the top of the holes. Ghislain checks the alignment. When he is happy he drops it the last few inches. Then we bolt it up using a 2 foot level to plumb it as we go. When that is done we undo the rigging and cut the crane loose to go fetch us another piece.
“Going straight up,” Ghislain says as he makes certain that the choker with the shackle attached to the end will clear everything and not jam up then “ok brother its all yours!” And the Operator raises the choker-laden ball straight up until he can see it then drifts it back to Yvan to grab another piece. The weather is so nice and the sun is out. We are a happy crew enjoying a beautiful day. The structure seems to appear to rise up before us on its own as the pieces go in safely and quickly.

Unfortunately as with all great days this one ends too soon. In the setting sun which paints the horizon beautiful shades of red we trudge with the masses down to the buses. I feel great inside as only the most beautiful days can make you feel. If only they were a like this! Then again, we get paid the big bucks for what we do because the environment here isn’t normally like this. It is normally very cold and very windy, like a portal to the gates of hell.

Some Corrections and Things

After I posted yesterday about the company dumping everyone from the tank farm my good buddy Adam Arsenault send me a text. It read:
“Pete those are some serious statements for someone who works at the tank farm to hear first thing in the morning”
You see poor Adam works at the tank farm as an Ironworker and hadn’t been fired so he wasn’t sure what to make of it. Now despite the fact that I heard about it from someone who is in a position to know, the data I had, and which I put on here yesterday was a little flawed. The truth would be that they fired two crews (those involved in the incidents that happened), two GFs, a Superintendent, and they demoted the General Superintendent. Still a massive chop but no innocent blood spilled. Thanks for the corrections Adam and sorry for creating a situation where you started your day nervous about being fired! Mae Culpa!

Yesterday felt like one of the coldest days so far although it wasn’t. The wind was fairly strong so it dropped the temperature down to -34 in the morning. I was working with Ghislain and in the morning we were impacting high up on our little structure (a pipe support for the neutralization tanks). Apart from the wind it is an area that is in the shadows all day so a double whammy! I had on double socks and two hot shot heating pads per boot and my feet were still frozen! By contrast it is a balmy -6 C today.

I have been toying around in my head with the plot for an Ironworking fiction story that I want to write. There is no shortage of material in my brain but more of a ‘what do I leave out?’ Fort Mac is a perfect microcosm (very small version of) Canada as all the issues that affect one affect the other on a slightly different scale. I am thinking a coming of age tale with a naive main character who is an apprentice. The rest you’ll have to wait for. Most people who write books and such never get paid for it (like my blog) so I have no expectations of getting rich off it. That being the case I may just publish it here a chapter at a time if and when I get it finished. We shall see.

Odd to say but with it being -6 C today it is warmer in the Mac today than it is at home! Lots of complaining on Facebook this last few days about the cold weather. -20C is not usual there so constant tales of “I froze my ass off today when I let the cat out. Brutally cold!!!!!!!” Yeah! -20! Brutally cold! Lol!!!!!!! If they only knew what it was usually like up here they wouldn’t be posting humorous stuff like that!

End with a joke today:
A guy gets home one day and finds his wife packing.
“Where are you going?” He asks.
“I’m going to Las Vegas! There are men there that will pay me $500 to do to them what I do to you for free!” He thinks about it and then starts packing too.
“What are you doing?” The wife asks back.
“I’m going with you to Vegas!” He says emphatically.
“Why?” She asks surprised.
“I want to see how you live on $1,000 a year!”

Tank Farm and other Miscellaneous Stuff

(Note: See tomorrows article because not all of this information which follows turned out to be true!) The big news yesterday was that they sacked every Ironworker, General Foreman and Superintendent from the tank farm. This is all the result of there having been a dropped load over there. The load was an industrial sized HVAC unit so it was significant but not all of those guys were working on it at the time. I have no idea why the company can do that or why our union can do nothing about it. It is certainly more bullshit from the employer who doesn’t care a whit for anyone! I know if my buddy Roy Fulcher is reading this he has some even more harsh words about them that he might add having made the mistake of working at the tank farm before himself.

The more these mass firings, Temporary Foreign Workers and their usual disdain for their employees goes on the more I am convinced that we need to merge the various trade unions into a super union like the CAW did. Then we would have some clout and be able to stop this stuff. Certainly the guys doing that failed lift have to go but why guys who weren’t even there?

Yesterday the weather worked in an opposite direction from normal. It was fairly warm and nice in the morning but by first break it was starting to go down. I was connecting pipe supports on the ground with Ghislain in the morning but by afternoon we were back on high in our EWP impacting in the wind. I had switched out my clothing combinations so that I had my Heli Hansen long johns on instead of the usual T-Max ones that I wear and I had put a marino wool undershirt over the top of my Heli undershirt and had dropped one jacket from the list. The result was that I felt warmer but was thinner around the chest and midsection which is important when trying to do up a harness or ironworker belt. For the most part I felt pretty good although my toes still got a little numb by the end of the day. Such is life. Up here it is a constant juggling of layers trying to get the right balance of heat and cold. I am still working on it and probably always will.

I went to my first Safety Champion meeting yesterday. They have come up with a new plan for safety. The have a new ‘Safety Charter’ which they didn’t seem able to explain and which I wasn’t able to grasp until later in the smoking pit. Dressed up as a ‘Charter’ it is their way of cutting the number of Safety Champions from 30ish to 15 and reducing the number of meetings from weekly to every 3 weeks. They also start at 3:30pm now so that there is no way they can last more than an hour. So basically they are pulling its teeth. No bite left. Oh well, the guys who have been in the safety champ program before all said that the company does not actually act on anything discussed there anyway and that the whole purpose of it is so that they can claim to Flour (primary contractor) and Imperial oil/Exxon that we have a say. The reality is that if i spoke my concerns to an iron beam I would get the same response. Oh well! Thats life in the patch. They consider us, the workers, as a necessary evil and they promote yes-men and others who will do nothing except help them get bigger bonuses. I know all companies exist to make profit an I don’t have a problem with that but some evolve into the most dehumanizing places going. Put on the white hat and shit on the ladder as you climb.

Sorry for that. I try so hard not to be negative but the work environment gets pretty poisonous when they are sacking people left and right!

Sent from myiPhone

Foxy Bitch

I often forget to mention that there is wildlife up here in the patch. They are from up here so I guess I expected to find them being chauffeur driven around in a stretch Caddy with bull horns fixed to the front but its not the case. Life up here is pretty tough on the animals.

There is a fox family that lives somewhere near our lunch trailers. They are very bold and don’t show much fear so we see them often. Its too bad as the Oil Boys will eventually have them captured and put down if they cause a nuisance. The rules up here are pretty strict relating to animals. Ignore them or they die. A fed animal is a dead animal. We aren’t allowed to take pictures on site anyway but you also aren’t allowed to engage the animals. No chasing them, throwing things at them, poisoning, kicking or basically engaging them in any way. And NO feeding them!

The fox family is kind of fun to have around. Mr. Fox is smaller than the misses. He has more red in his pelt. He is pretty nervy though , dodging his way into the smoke pit, climbing up on the bench and having a shit on it as some kind of weird ‘thank you’. His wife by contrast has a lot darker coat and a tail that is magnificent and fluffy. She appears to be pregnant but that doesn’t stop her or even to slow her down. The two of them weave in and around the trailers every few days scouring the ground for things to eat. If you leave your bag on the ground they will take it so no one really does. As I mentioned they aren’t that afraid and often weave in and out amongst the people as if aware of their ‘safe’ status.

The other site scavengers are the ravens. Ravens are awfully smart and travel in groups. They are like natures vacuum as they fly around with their sharp eyes finding any little thing and trying it. They will ignore you but if you so much as bend over to do up your boot they assume you are bending to fetch a stone and they flock off quickly! When I am up on the steel I often see them hopping around up there tugging on insulation in case it might be cotton candy or flying off with anything shiny that they can find. They really are both tough and ingenious.

Back at camp you often see their tracks. Coyotes are the ghosts that haunt us in our camp. They don’t hang out in plain site very often but if you look around you can see their tracks everywhere. Over at CNRL they had several that roamed around the site and it wasn’t uncommon to see them fighting over a workboot that they had stolen. I am pretty sure they do the same thing here so we are warned about leaving things laying around anywhere. I am pretty sure they get the boots from the backs of pick up trucks. The coyotes are not that big and look for all intents and purposes like a small husky dog.

Beyond those animals there aren’t that many that let themselves be seen. From the bus I have seen bears, moose and the occasional deer but thats about it. The bears are the little black ones and they can be a nuisance if given an opportunity to find food of any kind. No one wants to turn around while working and find a bear sitting there so no one feeds them.

I left out wolves didn’t I? Probably because I personally haven’t seen one although people have. They are apparently much bigger than a coyote which probably helps when they are going after moose or are trying to keep a bear from their spoils.

I believe that there are lynx up here as well although most have only been seen by bus drivers who cover a lot more ground than we do. I don’t know much about the lynx so ask a driver if you are interested.

I mentioned above that you can’t take pictures of the animals. I am not sure if the oil company is worried that they will develop big egos and will start wanting appearance fees or something like that. One guy, as the rumour goes, took a picture of the fox and posted it on his wall. Big mistake as the Big Oil Police (possibly using information from the NSA which is run by the US government which is in turn run by big oil and similar interests) saw it somehow and his job vaporized in seconds. Apparently it was a picture of the female which as I said is an amazing looking specimen. Odd eh? In most places if you posted a picture of a foxy bitch it is your wife you’d be worried about and not your employer!

Cold, Colder……Yikes!

Yesterday started normally enough. It was below zero but not too far and the wind wasn’t too bad either. We had to finish loading the steel in Pit 4 so we headed over there just after our morning DSB and stretching. Yvan, Robert, Ghislain and myself grabbed our lunch bags and jumped into the van and Rob Lewis from Conception Bay was our driver.

Having worked in pit 4 the day before I knew it was colder due to the deep snow that I had to walk through so I brought more warm clothing than normal. Included in that clothing was my Dakota Shell which is a jacket that cuts the wind. As we shook out our steel and loaded it onto the truck we noticed the wind picking up a little and we started noticing the cold. By the time lunch was over the wind was gusting and cold. On the drive back to our usual site checking forecasts and whatnot we found that the temperature had indeed dropped like a stone. I believe we were into the -30s and the wind was gusting to 60 clicks (kilometres). It had turned brutally cold!

You can imagine just how thrilled I was when my Foreman Jean-Yves told me that my afternoon task was to do impacting up at the top of the structure with Ghislain. Marvellous! Completely exposed!

I have worked in colder temperatures before but with that wind it was simply brutal. I had on glove liners, heavy leather gloves and there was a little heating pad in each glove. Still, by the time I had moved our EWP up to the structure and then had elevated it to the top where we would be working my hands were already numb. I don’t just mean white and clammy looking. I mean the ‘although I have no feeling they hurt like hell’ kind of cold. This was surprising as I had on more layers than I had worn previously this winter and had everything zipped and snugged! I had about 5 layers on my head alone as I wore double hats with a neck warmer over the top, a hoodie and the hood from the jacket over that. I had so much on my head that my hard hat was maxed and couldn’t be made to tighten. In that wind I gulped hard and put on the degrading chin strap as it was the only way to ensure that the hard hat stayed on!

When the day finally finished I was thrilled. I took the bus back to camp and then went up to my room and changed. It was then that I noticed my plugs in my room wouldn’t work. Frustrating but not the end of the world certainly so I took the phone and recharger to the dining hall (if you are a regular reader you will know that I never usually go there). As I walked in I noticed an empty table in a corner with a plug beside it so I went through the lineup and got that table where i plugged in and recharged while I ate. It got a good charge as I saw my old friend Joe Waggoner (from local 721 in Toronto) who I had worked with before at Black and Mac. We chatted for quite a bit before I headed back to my room. Joe is at Pacer, by the way, and he loves it.

When dinner was over I went back to my room. With no tv and no plugs that worked I fooled around on Facebook for a bit and then, exhausted from the cold, I crawled into bed and slept as if dead!

Snow Way Buddy!

You know most winters that go by I end up shovelling a lot of snow. So as a result I wonder how many scoops and pounds of snow I have heaved from one spot to another during the course of my life. It would have to be significant. If I had a dollar for every scoop I am pretty sure I could retire!

Here in northern Alberta the snow tends to be different than back home in Ontario or as it was in northern BC. In those two provinces the snow is wet and heavy. Doing your driveway can be a real task. Usually a couple of times a year we hear about someone having a heart attack while shovelling during the first heavy snowfall of the year so it is no easy task to move the stuff around.

In Alberta the snow tends to be drier than at home. It is usually light enough that people clear their driveways with leaf blowers. I am pretty sure that the cause of this is just how much colder it is on the prairies. The snow simply freezes before it can bond together in those big, cotton candy-like flakes that often fall back home. I am guessing the Inuit would have a name for both types as I once learned that they have 23 words for different kinds of snow! I know when I am shovelling new words often pop into my head but they are usually more like “Shit! Goddam it! Son of a…” and so on. I guess those words describe how I feel when I make that first scoop and realize that it is going to be a long and difficult job!

Yesterday our crew was sent out to Pit 4 to fetch and load some steel for the Neutralization Tanks. Pit 4 is a laydown yard which is a place where iron is stored until it is needed. Typically the trucks come in with steel for one particular mod so it is stored together. We found our steel pretty quickly as Robert had tracked it down a while ago and so we set up our crane and lowboy trailer (a flatbed from an 18 wheeler). Robert and Yvan climbed onto the lowboy and Ghiislain and I headed out into the snow where pieces of our grey painted iron poked out of the snow. Pit 4 doesn’t have any coverage really so a lot of snow had blown in during the multiple snowstorms that we have had so far. The snow was not light and fluffy as usual because the warm weather had compressed it into tough layers with soft stuff in between. With each step you would hear the crunch of your boot on the rough surface layer and then it would give way and the soft layer beneath would swallow up an additional 6-8 inches of your leg. We had our shovels as we needed to dig out our steel before we could get our rigging around it. It was tough shovelling with those crunchy layers hard to dig through but we are ironworkers and this is part of our territory. It was nice weather and a beautiful day so being Canadian we shovelled without thinking much about it. The snow stretched out a long way on this uneven ground so it felt kind of like setting up an ice hut for ice fishing. Ghislain shovelled up one side and I shovelled down the other. Did I mention that uneven landscape? Yeah that one! You couldn’t see it because the snow that drifted, fell and blew into the yard had established one flat surface as the wind flattened out the uneven bits. In fact I had no idea that the iron was actually at the top of a little hill. So as I shovelled and bitched and moved forward I made one too many steps when PHOOF! and I was suddenly up to my waist in snow with one leg down (and still not touching the ground below) and the other leg sticking out through the snow and up. The fact is that my big and meaty leg on the surface (the crispy surface) is what stopped me. “Hey Pete” called Yvan from the lowboy “where you go?”
Robert and Ghislain were laughing by now. I looked a little funny I guess. Kind of like a one-legged man sitting in a shallow hole.
“Eh Yvan” said Ghislain “You should tank ‘im for dat! If you ‘ad step there you would ‘ave disappear!” We all laughed as Yvan isn’t the tallest man in the world. For my part I just laughed. Then, using my shovel as a support I backed my way up onto ground that wasn’t quite so deep. Then we shovelled some more. It was a beautiful, clear day and the big Alberta sky was smiling at us. Life is good.

Paperwork and More Paperwork

It was a typical day on the construction site. The day started with the morning toolbox talk where the Foreman read the important points for the day. He reviewed the sheet relating to the weather. He reviewed the sheet on incidents and the results of the Safety Taproot investigations. There was the travel report, the upcoming training report, the plans for the day. Then there was the sheet relating to fundraisers on site. The Foreman then led them in the pre-work-stretches. These consisted of ten minutes of jogging on the spot to get your blood flowing and then 20 different stretches each of which was repeated twice after being held in place for 15 seconds each. When all that was over it was a couple of hours later so they went to first break.

When the crew returned from break they met at the actual work location and as a team walked the site to identify potential hazards and then they sat and wrote the PSI or Pre-work Safety Inspection. The you apprentice was doing the writing for the group and he carefully listed all the potential tasks, potential hazards and how they would control them. The Journeymen each pitched in things that he added like: “task: set up tools on site; hazard: Slip or fall on ice or uneven ground; Control: sand area, watch footing and wear traction aids”. When they were finished that everyone signed on to the 11 page document that the apprentice had just filled out.

As they were working at heights and would also be using the EWP to access the building the apprentice had to fill in a few more forms. There was the ‘working at heights’ form, the access/egress form, the spotter form and the circle check inspection form for operating the EWP. About the time he finished that it was time for lunch.

After lunch they returned to the site and had their refocus meeting. The form for that asked for how the morning had gone and what the plans were for the afternoon. Then they did more stretches. finishing that they found that another crew had taken their EWP. They went in search of another one and upon finding one did another circle check form on it and drove it to the site. The crane showed up so the operator of that had to fill out his PSI and then each member of the crew had to read it and sign on while he did the same with theirs. Fortunately for them the operator only had to review and sign 3 of their documents so it only took and hour. After that it was time for third break.

After third break it was time for the weekly safety meeting so they stayed in the trailer for that. The topic was BBOs which are also called Behaviour Based Observations. They are another safety form and the company wanted two a day from each crew. After the meeting the crew sat together and wrote their BBO forms. Then they packed up the crane, the EWP and the tools and headed to the bus back to camp.

As they were riding home the young apprentice sat next to an old Journeyman. “Hey Spuds,” asked the kid questioningly “why did you go into ironwork?”
“Truth is kid I am a hands on guy. I like to work with my hands and get things done. I could never work in an office. Too much paperwork!”

A Nice Day…

Yesterday was a beautiful day up in oil sand land. The temperature hovered just below 0 degrees with no noticeable wind and by 9ish o’clock the sun broke out on a background of light blue sky. It was perfect working weather.

Our crew went through another small change or two. Apart from those members who opted to not return we also transferred a couple of guys yesterday although I understand that they will be back in a few weeks. Both Marc St. Jean and Ignacio ‘Natcho’ Vargas headed over to Cogen on the Kearl site for a job described as a ‘short shutdown’. Marc is from Sudbury, Ontario and has been working here at PCL/Kearl for a little longer than me so in my working here he has been a good friend and will be missed. Marc has apprentice school coming up (he is an apprentisaurus like me being 50ish) so he could use the extra bucks from the 12/ hour days which means 2 at double bubble per day. Natcho is a former Chilean who has lived for the past 30ish years in Montreal. He speaks perfect Spanish, accented but perfect French and is also fluent in Italian. I get along well with him too. He is a happy and positive person and will also be missed. See you on the flip side boys!

Considering that at one point we had 14 guys on the crew we are a pretty small group now! I am currently the only apprentice. From New Brunswick we have my new bolting connecting partner Ghislain Theriault who is a solid topman having spent basically his whole career as a connector. From just down the road in New Brunswick are Robert Roussel and Ivan Roy. Both are veteran Ironmen and so working with them I learn new things every day. Both guys are fun people who get the job done but who enjoy themselves while they are doing it. Robert is mid-50’s and always has a little cap pulled down over his ears. With his French features and that little hat I am always reminded of a character from the movie ‘The Return of Martin Guerre’. By contrast Yvan is a shorter guy who must run on Everready batteries because he is just a go-go-go guy. I love working with both of them. Every now and again you will hear from Yvan: “Yaba Daba doo, … Faite Callioux” (my spelling is off a bit on the last bit) which apparently was something Fred Flintstone the cartoon caveman would yell out during the French version of the show. Rounding out the crew is Cedryk Lavasseur from Quebec. He is the youngest on the crew and is a Journeyman out of Quebec local 711. He is in his late 20s, is a health and fitness freak, and is as likeable a guy as you will ever meet. He is 6’3″ tall and weighs around 195 lbs but has that V shape that only you health and fitness guys can have. The English he speaks is very good so I always assume he is completely bilingual which isn’t quite accurate. Giving him the credit he deserves though I would say he works very hard at it so whatever he is lacking he will pick up in short order. You may not have noticed but they are all French and I love working with every single one of them.

Yesterday I was paired with Ghislain bolting and torquing the structure that we have been putting up in the neutralization tank area. I remember when Big Bear was working with Ghislain before Christmas he confided in me once that he loved working with Ghislain. “I learn at least one new thing every time we go up!” he had said. Now I know what he meant. In one day with my new partner I learned at least two new ways of doing thing better than the way I would have done them. He is happy go lucky in attitude except that simmering below the surface he is always anticipating what is coming up in ten minutes, an hour, a day. As a result he does things to be ready so that he can do the job properly, safely and with a Tradesman’s pride. I am happy to be his partner at work as it will definitely make me a better Journeyman if and when I finish this apprenticeship.

For me there are other advantages to being on this crew. After 4:30pm when we were packing up our area and signing out the boys all started chatting as guys do when they are finished the day but not allowed to leave yet. The entire conversation was in French and I sat there listening and very pleased I might add because I could follow the conversation. After a few minutes of this an Anglo welder who was working with us for the day joined us and without anyone saying anything the conversation switched to English only. That was when it occurred to me: I am one of the French guys now! Awesome!!