Survey finds Alyeska workers continue to fear harassment

Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A new survey finds workers at the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. continue to experience intimidation and harassment for reporting safety concerns along the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Preliminary results found that at least 108 of 900 workers surveyed complained of harassment. A total of 3,000 questionnaires were distributed to Alyeska employees. Workers who responded to the survey said the alleged harassment came from a couple of executives at Alyeska headquarters.

The survey was done by the Joint Pipeline Office, the combined state-federal agency that oversees the pipeline. It was the third such survey the agency has conducted. The first was done in 1997 and the second in 1998. The most recent survey was conducted over the summer.

''Our major issues of concern with the pipeline are safety, integrity and environmental issues,'' said Rhea DoBosh, spokeswoman for the JPO. ''If employees are not comfortable in raising concerns about those areas how can we have complete confidence in the system? How do we know there's not a problem if somebody's afraid to raise it?''

The company is concerned that the same issues are being raised again, but this time the problem appears to be contained to the two executives, said Tim Woolston, an Alyeska spokesman.

''In the old days certainly there were issues of people out in the field everyday ... feeling they couldn't raise a concern. That is a problem because it impacts the operation of the pipeline,'' Woolston said. ''We think that the survey indicates that people will bring those concerns forward when it regards the integrity of the operation.''

Several workers who responded to the survey also said budget shortfalls at Alyeska have made it difficult to get some projects fully funded.

A final report on the survey is expected to be completed by the end of the month, DoBosh said. It will include recommendations on how Alyeska should address the problems found.

According to the preliminary findings, the agency found that there has been no noticeable improvement in worker attitudes about the company's Employee Concerns Program since the last survey in 1998. The Employee Concerns Program trains managers in how to react when whistleblowers come forward with concerns.

Alyeska vowed six years ago to end harassment of whistleblowers after a government audit found lax management, falsified reports and other problems. Many of those problems had previously been pointed out by workers who then suffered retaliation from managers.

The company has since paid out millions of dollars to settle whistleblower harassment complaints and millions more to correct the problems along the pipeline that were disclosed by the workers.

Still, the problems persist.

''In reviewing other corporations that have had this problem it's taken several years to turn it around. It's just proved to be a more stubborn problem for Alyeska than anyone anticipated,'' DoBosh said.

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