Updated: Autonomous vehicles in Canada, job displacement, and bargaining at UPS

autonomous vehicleAutonomous Vehicles and the Future of Work in Canada  is a report released on January 11 by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.  It  provides an overview of the technology and benefits of autonomous vehicles, including “smart cities”. Most of the report is dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the impact of AV’s to Canada’s labour market, forecasting a demand of approximately 34,700 jobs in the industry by 2021, and considering the issues of job displacement and occupational skill requirements. The ICTC forecasts that the integration of AV technology will be slowed down in the trucking industry by a  shortage of drivers (estimated by the Canadian Truckers Alliance as 34,000 by 2024), giving the industry a buffer of time to plan training and retraining strategies. The report considers non-driving occupations (including mechanics, dispatchers, auto assembly workers,  insurance underwriters, heavy equipment operators) in a “deeper dive” about education, wages, and demand. The most in-demand occupations, with the highest wages,  are forecast to be in Information Technology: software and computer engineers, database analysts, computer programmers, etc. . The report concludes with five recommendations centered around the need for more research and  greater integration between policymakers, industry and academic experts, so that Canada can catch up with the autonomous vehicle “powerhouse” countries: U.S., Germany, and Japan.

The Canadian Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication released its report on autonomous vehicles in January 2018, after hearing from over 78 witnesses from across Canada and the United States between March and October 2017  (The testimony is compiled here ).  The Submission by Teamsters Canada (Oct. 2017) focused mostly on the safety concerns of driverless vehicles, but raised the issue of displaced workers and their pension and benefits, stating that  “Teamsters Canada believes the study of automated and connected vehicles is not just a technical study, it must examine the social and workplace consequences of technology adoption.”  A fuller view of the concerns of Teamsters (and B.C. Taxi drivers) appears in an article in The Tyee, “Job Losses from Automated Vehicles Worry Truckers” (Feb. 2).

UPS electric truckThe issue of autonomous vehicles is being tested in the negotiations underway between UPS and the Teamsters in the U.S. An article from the Wall Street Journal is reposted at the Teamsters’ website: “Teamsters tell UPS no Drones or Driverless Trucks“.   The Teamsters Union has been closely monitoring all aspects of the technology and appeared at a House of Representatives Committee hearing on autonomous vehicles, according to a Teamsters press release from June 2017.

Within Canada, Ontario strives to be the leader in autonomous vehicle development, and employs almost 10,000 workers in the industry as of November, 2017, when the Premier announced the launch of an Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network at Stratford, Ontario. Part of the $80 million investment over 5 years will be spent on a Talent Development Program, to support internships and fellowships for students and recent graduates with Ontario companies advancing C/AV technologies. Full details are at The AVIN Hub .

 

Oil sands companies called on to “keep it in the ground” – but Suncor opens new mine near Fort McMurray, deploys driverless trucks

Parkland report big oil coverThe majority of Alberta oil sands production is owned by the five companies: Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL), Suncor Energy, Cenovus Energy, Imperial Oil, and Husky Energy.  What the Paris Agreement Means for Alberta’s Oil Sands Majors, released on January 31 by the Parkland Institute, evaluates what the 2°C  warming limit in the  Paris Agreement means for those “Big Five” –  by assessing their  emissions-reduction disclosures and targets, climate change-related policies, and actions, in light of their “carbon liabilities.” The carbon liabilities are calculated using  three levels for the Social Cost of Carbon, ranging from $50, $100, and $200 per tonne. Even under the most conservative scenario, the carbon liabilities of each corporation are more than their total value, and the combined carbon liabilities of the Big Five ($320 billion) are higher than Alberta’s GDP of $309 billion. Conclusion: “the changes required to remain within the Paris Agreement’s 2°C limit signals a need for concrete, long-term “wind-down” plans to address the challenges and changes resulting from global warming, including the fact that a significant portion of known fossil fuel reserves must remain underground.” What the Paris Agreement Means for Alberta’s Oil Sands Majors was written by Ian Hussey and David Janzen, and published by the Parkland Institute as part of the SSHRC-funded Corporate Mapping Project.  A National Observer article reviewed the report and published responses from the Big Five companies on January 31.

autonomous electric mining truckRather than keeping it in the ground, Suncor Energy announced on January 29 that it is continuing to ramp up production at its Fort Hill oilsands mine, about 90 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.  The next day, Suncor also announced  the beginning of a 6-year phase-in of approximately 150 autonomous electric trucks at numerous locations. The company said it will “continue to work with the union on strategies to minimize workforce impacts,” and that “current plans show that the earliest the company would see a decrease in heavy equipment operator positions at Base Plant operations is 2019.”   Reaction from the local union is here in a notice on the website of Unifor 707A;  Unifor National Office response is here:  “Driverless trucks aren’t the solution for Suncor” .  The National Observer published an interview with a Suncor spokesperson on January 31.  According to”Suncor Energy says driverless trucks will eliminate a net 400 jobs in the oilsands” , Suncor is the first oil sands company to use driverless trucks, and “Suncor’s plan to test the autonomous truck systems was initially criticized by the Unifor union local because of job losses. But Little says Suncor is working with the union to minimize job impacts by retraining workers whose jobs will disappear. The company has been preparing for the switch by hiring its truck drivers, including those at its just−opened Fort Hills mine, on a temporary basis.”

The good news is that  “the era of oil sands mega-projects will likely end with Suncor Energy’s 190,000 barrel-per-day Fort Hills mining project, which started producing this month”, according to an article by Reuters.  The bad news is in the title of that article:  “Why Canada is the next frontier for shale oil” (Jan. 29) . The article extols the strengths of Alberta’s mining industry, and quotes a spokesman for Chevron Corporation who calls the Duvernay and Montney formations in Canada “one of the most promising shale opportunities in North America.”  For a quick summary, read   “Montney, Duvernay Oil and Gas Fields Seize the Momentum from Athabasca Tar Sands/Oil Sands” ( Jan. 31) in the Energy Mix.

Also,  consider the work of Ryan Schultz of the Alberta Geological Survey.  Most recently, he is the lead author of  “Hydraulic fracturing volume is associated with induced earthquake productivity in the Duvernay play”, which  appeared in the journal  Science on January 18 , and which is summarized in the  Calgary Herald  on January 18.  It discusses the complexities of how fracking has caused earthquakes in the area.