Negative blog entries zap Suncor worker’s job

Worker vows to continue blogging about poor conditions at work camps despite firing over blog entries and then union’s dropping of wrongful dismissal grievance
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 11/24/2010

An Alberta oilfield electrician has found himself out of a job after he blogged about poor living conditions at two northern Alberta work camps for Suncor.

Mike Thomas is an electrician employed by AECON Lockerbie & Hole, a contracting company, who spent five years doing occasional work on sites owned by oil and gas company Suncor. However, when he stayed at two camps for workers on a project north of Fort McMurray, Alta., he found living conditions were poor. He complained to Suncor about the conditions but he said nothing was done, so he blogged about them.

In two blog entries, Thomas wrote that there were only four urinals, toilets and showers for 50 workers and the showers were encrusted with calcium buildup and mould. He also said cold and flu outbreaks were common because ventilation was poor. The blog entries included pictures and videos of the camps, showing long lineups for food and plates of deep-fried items, which he said were sometimes recycled for days until they were inedible. Thomas derided the conditions in the camps as significantly worse than other camps.

On Oct. 6, two days after his second post, AECON called Thomas to inform him his employment was terminated at Suncor’s request. The reason Suncor gave was that he violated its policy against photographing work sites. However, Thomas said he only took pictures of employee accommodations, not the worksite, and the real reason for the firing was his blogging.

"Keeping a person like me from taking pictures of shower heads ... does that make sense from a company that makes billions of dollars?" Thomas told QMI Agency. "I just wrote about my experience. It's pretty simple, really."

Thomas’ union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 424, launched a wrongful dismissal grievance against Suncor and informed the Alberta Federation of Labour about the situation. However, earlier this month, the union decided to drop the case without pursuing the grievance.

Though someone claiming to be a Suncor official commented on one of his blog’s that the company improving conditions at the work camps, Thomas vowed in his blog to continue raising awareness of the camps’ conditions.

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