Theme 2: Work

Abstract and Speaker Bios


Sara Dorow and Sandrine Jean, “Work Rotations and ‘Camp Time’: Effects on Mobile Workers and Their Families”

For long-distance rotational mobile workers in the oil sands, “atypical work schedules” involve multiple layers of rhythm and time. Shift schedules in the workplace (e.g., day or night shift, one or two or three weeks in length) are inseparable from the 24-hour rhythms of camp, the rhythms of transportation infrastructures, the adjustments of regular or irregular return home, and the seasonal labor needs of bitumen extraction. Just as importantly, these rhythms are both shaped by, and have an impact on, the temporalities of the homes and places from which mobile workers come.
In this paper, we consider how different kinds of rotational schedules combine with other temporal layers of mobile work in the oil sands to impact the well-being of individual workers and their families. Our paper draws on a combined total of more than 75 qualitative interviews and dozens of hours of participant observation in five different open work camps in the oil sands region of northern Alberta from 2014-2016.
One unique contribution of the paper is its consideration of rotational fly-in fly-out work schedules and the adjustments between home and camp that they entail (both of which receive growing attention in the research literature) alongside the “time of camp” (on which there is almost no research). Another is consideration of the social and health impacts of work rotations and camp time on both oil workers and camp

Sara Dorow (Associate Professor and Chair, Sociology, University of Alberta) has been studying social aspects of Alberta's oil sands region for about a decade. Her research on mobile work has encompassed the experiences of a range of long-distance rotational commuters, including oil workers and camp staff, and both Canadian and immigrant workers. Of particular interest to her are the ways people "on the move" negotiate work-family relations, and how their experiences are shaped by the changing conditions of mobile work. 

Natasha Hanson, “How working within the trucking industry impacts the family life and well-being of truck drivers on PEI”

This presentation details the findings of qualitative research conducted with truck drivers and trucking company representatives in Prince Edward Island from 2013-2014. Specifically, the findings elucidate how working within the trucking industry impacts the family life and well-being of truck drivers. These impacts vary depending on the life stage of drivers, their gender, and what type of trucking routes they work. Also of interest are the perceptions of company representatives about work-life balance in relation to their employees, as there is a recognition within the industry that this is something which is important to drivers. The findings also detail how company representatives are trying to improve the opportunities for their employees to achieve work-life balance and the difficulties they as trucking companies face from the global pressures of just-in-time delivery.

Elise Thorburn and Kara Arnold, “Working On the Move – Human Resource and Union Perspectives on Mobility and Labour”

Dr. Arnold and Dr. Thorburn examine how stakeholders navigate and mitigate negative impacts for the mobile workforce and their families. We examine a range of work mobilities including fly-in-fly-out, complex and lengthy daily commutes, and the movement between different worksites throughout the day.  In particular, Dr. Arnold’s research investigates the issues human resources professionals experience in managing fly-in-fly-out workers, and uncovering leading human resource policies and practices used to balance concerns regarding employee productivity, family and employee well-being. Dr. Thorburn’s research examines how workers’ commutes to, from, and within work impact their family lives, and what role work scheduling plays in making life easier or more complicated. A focus is the challenges around coordinating caring responsibilities (children, disabled, elderly) with extended commuting for people whose work may be scheduled by automated computer programs, with very little of their own input. Based on surveys and key informant interviews with HR professionals (Dr. Arnold) and with union representatives, childcare centre owner/operators, and elder-care facilities’ managers (Dr. Thorburn) this presentation opens up perspectives on how mobility is impacting workers’ lives, and how HR managers, unions, and care-centre managers are adapting – or not – to meet the demands of mobility on workers’ and their families.

Lois Jackson, “The work-related geographic mobility of harm reduction service providers: An exploration of key influences on mobility within urban and rural places”

Background: There is relatively little literature, particularly within the Canadian context, on work-related geographic mobility in the healthcare and social service sectors. There are, however, many workers within these sectors who are on the move as part of their work, including harm reduction service providers who are working to reduce the harms of drug use for individuals and their families.
Objectives: The mobility of harm reduction workers will be outlined with a focus on Atlantic Canada. The role of these workers in ensuring access to harm reduction services and supplies in rural and urban places will be discussed, as well as the different types of service providers who work in various communities. Key influences on the geographic mobility of these service providers will also be highlighted.
Methods: Information on the mobility of harm reduction workers is based on a review of relevant research literature and select community and media reports.
Results/Conclusions: The geographic mobility of harm reduction workers helps to ensure access to needed harm reduction services for their clients, and is a component of many harm reduction programs operating in urban and rural places. Key social and economic forces, including community-level forces, appear to play an important role in influencing when and where harm reduction workers travel.

Lois Jackson is a Professor of Health Promotion (Dalhousie University). She has conducted research for many years in the area of harm reduction, and has engaged in numerous nationally-funded collaborative, community-based studies.  Much of her work centres on improving access to harm reduction services for people who use drugs.  She has published and presented widely both nationally and internationally.  Currently, she is a Co-Investigator with the 'On the Move' partnership, and is involved in research exploring the work-related geographic mobility of professional and paraprofessional Nova Scotia health care workers.

Leonor Cedillo and Delphine Nackache “Work-Family Balance among Temporary Foreign Workers”

This presentation is based on analysis of interviews with 75 temporary foreign workers (TFWs), with application of a psycho-social work–family framework. The interviews were conducted across Canada in 2014/15. The presentation discusses issues surrounding prolonged family separation among TFWs, and its significance within the problematic of psycho-social factors leading to both protection and to risk, at work and in the family. We contend that work–family balance among TFWs is only weakly comparable to work–family balance among workers who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents – even in cases in which the latter have to spend long periods of time away from home (for example miners, ships’ crews and workers on offshore installations). This is so because – unlike TFWs – Canadian (or permanent resident) workers enjoy some security as to the period of time that they will be away and subsequently return home. TFWs, by contrast, face numerous challenges at work, and while family reunification is their ultimate goal, its achievement is highly uncertain.

Leonor Cedillo is a scholar in the field of gender and occupational health and safety (OH&S) with extensive experience in psychosocial hazards. She is currently collaborating as a research associate for the policy component of the On the Move Partnership, in analyzing a broad set of TFWs interviews from the perspective of OH&S, employment standards, and work-family balance.

Panelists Brian Oulton (PEI Trucking Sector Council), Ian Fong (Person with Lived Experience), and Holly Rye (Community Integration and Spousal Employment Supervisor, Military Family Resource Center)

Brian Oulton is Executive Director with the Prince Edward Island Trucking Sector Council.  He has been actively working to address industry concerns and opportunities as they relate to the PEI Trucking workforce for well over a decade; this includes much work around employment mobility.  Brian sees the impacts of life in a mobile environment, both good and bad, daily through his interactions with some of the many employees and employers of the trucking industry.  He is a proud participant of the “On the Move Partnership” research project and a strong advocate for the Canadian trucking industry.

Ian Fong is a visual inspector for pressure equipment, such as vessels, piping and, boilers, and above ground storage tanks. He subcontract's himself to other inspection companies to perform work in oil refineries/upgraders, gas plants, chemical plants, fertilizer plants, and gas compression stations. His work normally occurs during turnarounds, when plant equipment is shut down for scheduled maintenance and inspection activities. 

Alexia Newson is a 23-year-old storekeeper/clerk in the logistics department of the Coast Guard in St Johns Newfoundland.  She has been working in the Coast Guard for 3 years, two weeks on (out to sea) and two weeks off.  She is currently the storekeeper of the Leonard J Cowley.  A PEI native, Alexia fell in love with the sea through sea cadets at an early age and can’t imagine doing anything else.  Mobile working has given Alexia invaluable opportunities and experiences worth any challenges that can come along with it.