Andrew Bykowsky didn’t set out to be the spokesperson of a movement, but he’s quickly fitting into that role. The truck driver started a movement this week when he took to social media to demand higher hourly rates for drivers. Despite losing his job in the process, Bykowsky organized a 50+ truck strong convoy that drove from Elk Point to Lloydminister to show that united drivers are strong and they are demanding changes.
“Over the last four years, things really went downhill. I’m sick and tired of all these oilfield companies being greedy and getting rich off of us.”
He claims to have had a 30 percent cut in hourly pay four years ago. Despite a bounce back in the oilfield, Bykowsky has never seen an increase in pay. He says with the cost of living increasing, as well as the cost of fuel it is time for the hourly rate to increase.
Up until last week, Bykowsky was a sub-contracted lease fluid hauler for Shamrock Valley Enterprises.
Basically, a sub-contractor owns his own truck. Shamrock Valley is contracted by oilfield companies, such as Canadian Natural, to haul their fluid. Some companies haul with their own trucks and hire drivers.
In Bykowsky’s case and other sub-contractors, Shamrock Valley sub-contracted to the driver who owned his own rigs to haul the fluid. The driver is then paid an hourly rate and uses that pay to maintain, fuel, and finance the truck.
Bykowsky claims that around 90 percent of the fluid being hauled is under a Canadian Natural (CNRL) contract. Which is why he targeted them in his claims, but adds it’s not just Canadian Natural that is not paying drivers adequate hourly rates.
“I wouldn’t say targeted, but the majority of guys I work with haul for CNRL.”
After Bykowsky’s first video he was fired from hauling CNRL’s fluid. Shamrock Valley had no choice but to end the sub-contract with Bykowsky. He is unsure if that means he will now longer be able to sub-contract for any company that hauls for CNRL.
“After the ruckus I caused, and having a CNRL superintendent fire me, I fairly certain that I can’t go back to work for them.”
After being let go, Bykowsky didn’t want the fight to end. He organized a convoy protest from Elk Point to Lloydminster. The convoy ended at the CNRL offices in Lloyd, where the parking lot was barricaded and the office doors were locked. The drivers stood strong to demand higher rates.
“It sure shows how many people are agreeing and in the same boat.”
Bykowsky said he started this movement without knowing it would grow as big as it has.
“A lot of guys came out with their rigs, some were worried about the parking and safety, so a lot of us carpooled. We had guys come out from Saskatchewan to join the convoy on the way.”
By the time the convoy reached the Canadian Natural offices in Lloyd there was around 100 people showing their support.
“This isn’t an issue just around here, it’s an issue in the entire oilfield.”
“Guys who have been working in this industry for 20 years are literary on the brink of losing everything they have.”
Bykowsky said he spoke with many drivers and will continue to fight because of their stories.
At the protest there was at least one driver who shielded his identity with a mask in fear of the repercussions that may come. To the best of Bykowsky’s knowledge, no other drivers have been fired due to the protest.
No CNRL employee spoke with the protesters at the convoy. Bykowsky said he was disappointed no one would come out and speak with them face-to-face.
“I was really hoping to talk to a CNRL rep. We went there, as professionals, to show that we financially cannot do this anymore. I am disappointed by that.”
CNRL has released a statement saying that they have ongoing conversations with truck drivers.
“We have ongoing meetings with our truck servicing firms and we encourage independent contractors to work with their employers to bring forward their concerns to us. We are committed to working together with our truck servicing firms to work through these concerns. That said, we would like to emphasize that market access is the key issue that is impacting everyone in Canada’s oil and natural gas sector.”
“The constraints on pipeline transportation systems is an ongoing economic challenge, particularly for heavy oil producing areas due to the price differentials between West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Western Canada Select (WCS) prices. Without pipeline transportation to broader markets, heavy oil production has limited ways out of Alberta. As a result, Canadian Natural and the industry has shut-in production, suspended drilling programs and activities in local operating areas. In Q1, Canadian Natural curtailed production of approximately 7,100 bbl/d in the first quarter along with deferring completions and workover activities, and 31 net wells not completed.
Ultimately, this means significantly fewer jobs for Canadians, particularly in heavy oil producing areas. It remains critically important that we continue working together to ensure pipeline projects get built so that we can receive full value for Canadian heavy oil. Market access is clearly affecting jobs and local businesses, as we are seeing with the response from truckers. With enhanced market access, Canadian Natural and the industry could increase activity, create additional jobs and more work for everyone, including truckers
Given the ongoing challenges that the industry faces, Canadian Natural remains focused on safe, effective and efficient operations, while improving productivity and controlling costs to deliver on our plans, maintain jobs and government revenues.
Canadian Natural recognizes and appreciates that our service providers have shared these significant challenges along with us. Our service providers are integral to our continued success.
The safe, reliable transport of our product is important to our operations. At our heavy oil operations, we have ongoing meetings with our truck servicing firms and encourage independent contractors to work with their employers to address their concerns.
We will continue working together with our service providers on our shared challenges to achieve our mutual goal of a strong future for Canada’s oil and natural gas industry.
Bykowsky says he is not satisfied with the response and has plans in the works.
“I’m waiting to hear some feedback, if CNRL is going to come to the plate and open up the discussion to open up the rates.”
He stated that is nothing comes, he will work on another convoy and take it right to head offices in Calgary.
“I want people to realize, if they don’t have us to haul their fluid, what do they have?” Bykowsky said he will continue to fight for higher pay.
“If all of us stick together, and don’t move their fluid, what are they going to do? United we’re strong!”
Bykowsky adds that he has been contacted by a few companies to get back to work, for now he wants to continue with the momentum of the protest.
“My main focus is to finish what we started. I want to finally get guys back what they deserve!” You can follow Andrew’s efforts on the Facebook group: Truckers Unite!