BP changes hiring policy for Alaska workers

Posted: Sunday, December 08, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- BP has changed its hiring policy for Alaska workers.

The British company used to require hires to live in Alaska if working in Alaska, but no longer. The company changed that policy on Nov. 20, and now will allow employees to live Outside while collecting a paycheck for work in Alaska fields.

Gov. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, is not happy with the policy change, said spokesman John Manly. ''He's anticipating a conversation, explanation with BP here in Juneau at some point. He was very disappointed by it, by that decision.''

The policy affects about 400 of the roughly 1,400 BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. workers in the state.

BP officials said the change was made partly in response to North Slope workers' concerns that policies be consistent for all employees.

BP's Alaska president, Steve Marshall, told workers in an e-mail message that the company stands by its commitment to seek out and hire qualified Alaska candidates.

According to the message, the former policy had required nonunion ''new hires or employees that transfer to (BP Alaska) positions after September 1998 become residents of Alaska and maintain residency as a condition of employment.''

The policy had not applied to Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy union members, employees hired before the policy began in 1998 or workers hired through contracts with other companies.

''In order to make everyone on equal footing, we made the change,'' said Daren Beaudo, BP spokesman in Alaska. Other Alaska oil companies did not carry a similar residency requirement, he said, which also influenced BP's decision.

Many North Slope employees work in the field for two weeks at a time and then are off for two weeks. They could take advantage of the policy change to live out of state, allowing their families to stay in their hometowns.

One BP worker who criticized the move started his career with the company 25 years ago when he responded to a newspaper ad for hardy, self-reliant candidates. The ad required applicants live in Alaska, said the worker, Marc Kovac, now a field mechanic in the western operating area of Prudhoe Bay.

That was the real benefit of having large oil companies in the state -- jobs for Alaska residents, Kovac said. ''Then they can earn that income to raise their families like I have.''

Other BP workers in Prudhoe Bay, some who opposed the Alaska residency requirement to begin with, are also concerned by a temporary contract employing Canadians for work formerly performed by an Alaska company.

In that move, a contract for inspection work formerly held by the Anchorage company ASCG Inspection, Inc. -- a subsidiary of the Alaska Native-owned Arctic Slope Regional Corp. -- now temporarily belongs to the Canada-based company CANSPEC, which is bringing in workers from Alberta.

''They promised when bringing Northstar (development) on line ... they would hire and seek out Alaskans for these positions and make sure contractors did the same,'' Kovac said. ''BP is not following through on the promise they made to the state.''

Some third-party services were put out to bid in an effort to streamline costs, the company said.

Beaudo said the ASCG contract expired Sept. 30 and CANSPEC is providing that service in the interim while BP looks at proposals from other companies, some based in Alaska.

Beaudo also said that BP spends more than $1 billion a year on third-party contractors, companies and suppliers, with more than 80 percent of that money spent in Alaska.

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