CASE: 5       ROUGH SEAS ON THE LINK650  IIBMS – ROUGH SEAS ON THE LINK650 Professor Suzanne Baxter was preparing for her first class of the semester when Shaun O’Neill knocked lightly on the open door and announced himself: “Hi, Professor, I don’t suppose you remember me?” Professor Baxter had large classes, but she did remember that Shaun was a student in her organizational behavior class two years earlier. Shaun had decided to work in the oil industry for a couple of years before returning to school to complete his diploma. “Welcome back!” Baxter said as she beckoned him into the office. “I heard you were working on an oil rig up in Canada. How was it?” “Well, Professor,” Shaun began, “I had worked two summers in the oil fields and my family’s from Canada, so I hoped to get a job on the LINK650. It’s that new WestOil drilling rig that arrived with so much fanfare in Newfoundland on Canada’s east coast two years ago. The LINK650 was built by LINK Inc. in Texas. A standard practice in this industry is for the rig manufacturer to manage its day-to-day operations, so employees on the LINK650 are managed by LINK managers with no involvement from WestOil. We all know that drilling rig jobs are dangerous, but they pay well and offer generous time off. A local newspaper said that nearly a thousand people lined up to complete job applications for the 50 nontechnical positions. I was lucky enough to get one of those jobs. “Everyone hired on the LINK650 was enthusiastic and proud. We were one of the chosen few and were really pumped up about working on a new rig that had received so much media attention. I was quite impressed with the recruiters—so were several other hires—because they really seemed to be concerned about our welfare out on the platform. I later discovered that the recruiters came from a consulting firm that specializes in hiring people. Come to think of it, we didn’t meet a single LINK manager during that process. Maybe things would have been different if some of those LINK supervisors had interviewed us. “Working on the LINK650 was a real shock even though most of us had some experience working in the oil fields. I’d say that none of the 50 nontechnical people hired was quite prepared for the brutal jobs on the oil rig. We did the dirtiest jobs in the biting cold winds of the North Atlantic. Still, during the first few months most of us wanted to show the company that we were dedicated to getting the job done. A couple of the new hires quit within a few weeks, but most of the people hired with me really got along well—you know, just like the ideas you mentioned in class. We formed a special bond that helped us through the bad weather and grueling work. “The LINK650 supervisors were another matter. They were tough SOBs who had worked for many years on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico or North Sea. They seemed to relish the idea of treating their employees the same way they had been treated before becoming managers. We put up their abuse for the first few months, but things got worse when the LINK650 was brought into portfolio twice to correct mechanical problems. These setbacks embarrassed LINK’s managers, and they put more pressure on the supervisors to get us back on schedule. “The supervisors started to ignore equipment problems and pushed us to get jobs done more quickly without regard to safety procedures. They routinely shouted obscenities at employees in front of others. A couple of my work mates were fired, a couple of others quit their jobs. I almost lost my job one day just because my boss thought I was deliberately working slowly. He didn’t realize—or care—that the fittings I was connecting were damaged. Several people started finding ways to avoid the supervisors and get as little work done as possible. Many of my coworkers developed back problems. We jokingly called it the ‘rigger’s backache’ because some employees faked their ailment to leave the rig with paid sick leave. “On top of the lousy supervisors, we were always kept in the dark about the problems on the rig. Supervisors said that they didn’t know anything, which was partly true; but they said we shouldn’t be so interested in things that didn’t concern us. But the rig’s problems, as well as its future contract work, were a major concern to crew members who weren\’t ready to quit. Their job security depended on the rig’s production levels and whether WestOil would sign contracts to drill new holes. Given the rig’s problems, most of us were concerned that we would be laid off at any time. “Everything came to a head when Bob MacKenzie was killed because someone secured a hoist improperly. Not sure if it was mentioned in the papers here, but it was big news around this time last year. The Canadian government inquiry concluded that the person responsible wasn’t properly trained and that employees were being pushed to finish jobs without safety precautions. Anyway, while the inquiry was going on, several employees decided to call the Seafarers International Union to unionize the rig. It wasn’t long before most employees on LINK650 had signed union cards. That really shocked LINK’s management and the entire oil industry because it was, I think, just the second time that a rig had ever been unionized in Canada. “Since then, management has been doing everything in its power to get rid of the union. It sent a ‘safety officer’ to the rig, although we eventually realized that he was a consultant the company hired to undermine union support. One safety meeting with compulsory attendance of all crew members involved watching a video describing the international union president’s association with organized crime. Several managers were sent to special seminars on how to manage a union workforce, although one of the