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Old 04-06-2012, 07:42 PM
 
22 posts, read 46,057 times
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Default Working Conditions at Man Camps

Hi,

I recently jumped through the hoops of an application process for a housekeeping position for a North Dakota Man Camp in the oil field patch. The work would have been 12 hours daily, 7 days weekly for three weeks straight, then 3 weeks off. I passed their drug test, 2 interviews and was offered the job to start within the next 2 1/2 weeks. After the second interview, I asked the question of whether the housekeeping shift was a day or a night shift. The HR lady first said it depended on the camp. Once she offered me the job, she told me which camp it was, and I asked her again if it was a day or night shift. Her response was that the company requires "flexibility" in their employees, and that shifts can change, basically, without notice, and that I needed to respond to the job offer by 10 p.m. that night or other candidates would be considered.

I have over 10 years experience housekeeping and 6 years experience running my own housekeeping business. I explained that mental, emotional and physical preparation is needed in any work, and that in order for me to make an informed decision and plan for this opportunity (I'd be driving across the country for this job) I would like to know which shift it was

The company took back their job offer.

The question of flexibility raises more questions as to how long their employees had between 12 hour shifts considering that the work time is 21 days on, then 21 days off. The breaks on this shift would have been 2 15 minutes breaks and a 1/2 hour eating / rest break. But if flexibility is such an issue, wouldn't safety be potentially compromised?

I never had the chance to ask what the turnover was at this company.

Anyone working or have worked as a housekeeper at one of these man camps and had to endure a "flexible" shift like the one described? Should I be thankful that they rescinded on their job offer?

I've worked 12-16 hour shifts before and have over 10 years experience housekeeping so that is not the issue. Just not 21 days in a row, then 3 weeks off.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:37 PM
 
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"Just not 21 days in a row, then 3 weeks off."

Working around and on the rigs is tough. If the camp were to get snowed in you might have to work over a month in a row. I have done 5 weeks of 12 hours shifts on a rig changing from day shifts to night shifts.

When you indicated a concern about what shift you would work you made the HR person nervous that you didn't understand what you were getting into. You may be asked to work longer hours if there were problems when the camp was moved or any other disaster that may happen that may need to be resolved before the crews can sleep.

Smaller camps can move a lot and it's -40 in the winter. There are days when the rig crews work outside for 16 hours and when the engines get shut down there is no heat anywhere. People used to put wood and diesel fuel in a barrel and light it so people could avoid frostbite and warm up a little.

Even though you applied for a cleaning job the work conditions could become very cold and severe and you might need to tough it out in -40 weather in the worst case scenarios of vehicle breakdowns etc.

Conditions are very harsh in the winter and being concerned about what hours you work may be one of the least of the potential hardships that you might face. Working weeks in a row is kind of a norm in the oil industry as well.

Jan and ElkHunter and all the others spend time trying to warn people of the tough conditions working in North Dakota in the winter.

The good news is you didn't just jump in feet first and regret it, and it will be easy for you to get another job. Now you can re-evaluate the job conditions again. Basically they are looking for people that will work whenever they need them to, sometimes over 12 hours a day, sometimes outside in -40 weather, and if you relief crew can't get to the camp you may have to work extra weeks.

I remember towing logs and tires behind a 4x4 trying to pack the snow down enough that our relief crew could land in a small plane. We had just had two weeks of -35 weather working outdoors. The snow was deep and if the pilot looked at the landing strip and didn't feel safe landing we would need to work another week. I had dressed in lighter town clothes and when I got in the plane the stewardess had a parka on. The plane's heater wasn't working and it was probably -10 inside and miserable without having heavy clothing.

It's not for the faint of heart at all.

Please post more questions of you need more information to help make your decisions.
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Old 04-06-2012, 09:55 PM
 
39 posts, read 81,363 times
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There were a couple of nights that got down to near -50 in one of the older camps that I worked in and the the fuel for the heaters started to thicken up in the fuel lines and not flow very well and some of the heaters needed to be restarted from outside the camp. It took a while for some sections of the camp to warm up enough to sit in with a few layers on.

I woke up one morning and the bed sheet which was about a foot from my face had frozen to the wall from the condensation of my breath. Condensation had also gathered on the metal door and run down in one spot which froze the door shut. There was nothing in the room to chip at the ice with so I had to put on my work boots and kick the door for a while before the ice finally cracked and it opened.

I'm sure the camps are much better now though and that was an extreme cold snap.
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Old 04-06-2012, 10:46 PM
 
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Wow, Rigpig. Thanks for the story! I like your screen name, too.

I asked the guy in my second interview if the camps were heated and he said yes, even the cooridors. Since I spent 15 years living in winters where it got to -40 at night and not above -20 during the day for a couple of months at a time, I know cold winters. I wish I knew how many housekeeping staff they had on at any given time at a specific camp. I also had no idea how long people had to rest up and sleep in between shifts, or if I had just fallen asleep after a shift, I would get woken up again to work another one. I never had the chance to ask the HR lady that question.

The pay for the housekeeping job would have been $954/week for an 84 hour week and that is before taxes. I didn't mention that before.
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Old 04-07-2012, 12:07 PM
 
8,025 posts, read 6,458,781 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiscomtngrrl View Post
Wow, Rigpig. Thanks for the story! I like your screen name, too.

I asked the guy in my second interview if the camps were heated and he said yes, even the cooridors. Since I spent 15 years living in winters where it got to -40 at night and not above -20 during the day for a couple of months at a time, I know cold winters. I wish I knew how many housekeeping staff they had on at any given time at a specific camp. I also had no idea how long people had to rest up and sleep in between shifts, or if I had just fallen asleep after a shift, I would get woken up again to work another one. I never had the chance to ask the HR lady that question.

The pay for the housekeeping job would have been $954/week for an 84 hour week and that is before taxes. I didn't mention that before.
I have to agree w/ RigPig....Your questions probably threw them....people are begging for jobs here. Also, there are some mancamps that double shift there workers...i.e. one shift is at work, the shift getting off is using the room, then vice versa......I am sure that cleaning requires a lot of as needed jobs....for instance when they are changing shifts. IMO 984 before taxes isn't enough for those type hours, and it would be hard work....And I'm sure that you are cleaning the whole camp...public area...possibly doing the laundry etc. Curious...you get paid for 3 weeks off?? If not than I would even consider it. Also, you';d have to be given accommodations at the camp too.....I have thought of going to Williston myself, but all things considered and what I would need to make for it to be worth my while would be a lot. I'm better off just continuing to rent my place there.
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Old 04-07-2012, 12:25 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JanND View Post
I have to agree w/ RigPig....Your questions probably threw them....people are begging for jobs here. Also, there are some mancamps that double shift there workers...i.e. one shift is at work, the shift getting off is using the room, then vice versa......I am sure that cleaning requires a lot of as needed jobs....for instance when they are changing shifts. IMO 984 before taxes isn't enough for those type hours, and it would be hard work....And I'm sure that you are cleaning the whole camp...public area...possibly doing the laundry etc. Curious...you get paid for 3 weeks off?? If not than I would even consider it. Also, you';d have to be given accommodations at the camp too.....I have thought of going to Williston myself, but all things considered and what I would need to make for it to be worth my while would be a lot. I'm better off just continuing to rent my place there.
Hi! Wouldn't a double shift mean a 24-hour straight shift? Aren't their laws against that? And, no, there is no pay for the three weeks off. Room and board would have been included. Not sure how many meals a day that is. I never had the chance to ask how much of a break they gave their workers in between 12 hour shifts. To see this company get nervous after asking, what I thought, was a basic question, seemed pretty shady. When people are sleep and food deprived, that is a recipe for an accident waiting to happen. Also, they had a "non-compete" clause which stated that if someone got fired or quit, they could not work for anyone else in this whole industry, basically, for a year - including their competitors.
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Old 04-07-2012, 12:36 PM
 
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Granted, I need work, too, like everyone else, and I've been out of work for so long that I'll take nearly anything and go anywhere at this point, but I just think their knee jerk reaction to my question was shady at best.
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Old 04-07-2012, 03:02 PM
 
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Wiscomtngrrl, it sounds like you might be better off without getting “that job”. I know that there are TONS of people out there in desperate need of a job, yet I personally did not see any harm in the questions that you asked. Yet it is too bad that you got so far in the hiring process, to have a big hiccup like this.

In your case, I know that I would have liked to had know what the job hours are and what is expected of me. The ND Oil Rush jobs and related jobs are brand new to me, so I’m trying to learn how they work, in regards to the amount of hours I could expect to work daily for the various positions I’m interested in. I always thought a double shift was only 16 hours (two 8 hour shifts, back to back). Now just doing simple math, when I have read about the Oil Patch workers working 60 to 100 hours per week (working 7 days per week, not including the time that they get off every so many weeks), that breaks down to just 7.5 hours to a little over 14 hours per day. I just can not imagine anyone could work a 12 hour double shift per day . . . that math does not add up.

I was shocked to read when you said “Also, they had a "non-compete" clause which stated that if someone got fired or quit, they could not work for anyone else in this whole industry, basically, for a year - including their competitors.” This is good information to know. This is the first time I heard of this. Hopefully other people seeking work will read this and be mindful of this. Because if things go south with an employer, this sounds like this could kill one’s Oil Rush job career to a certain degree, unless one gets into another field, if they get stuck with a “non-compete” clause.
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Old 04-07-2012, 03:54 PM
 
22 posts, read 46,057 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WestCoastWilson View Post
Wiscomtngrrl, it sounds like you might be better off without getting “that job”. I know that there are TONS of people out there in desperate need of a job, yet I personally did not see any harm in the questions that you asked. Yet it is too bad that you got so far in the hiring process, to have a big hiccup like this.

In your case, I know that I would have liked to had know what the job hours are and what is expected of me. The ND Oil Rush jobs and related jobs are brand new to me, so I’m trying to learn how they work, in regards to the amount of hours I could expect to work daily for the various positions I’m interested in. I always thought a double shift was only 16 hours (two 8 hour shifts, back to back). Now just doing simple math, when I have read about the Oil Patch workers working 60 to 100 hours per week (working 7 days per week, not including the time that they get off every so many weeks), that breaks down to just 7.5 hours to a little over 14 hours per day. I just can not imagine anyone could work a 12 hour double shift per day . . . that math does not add up.

I was shocked to read when you said “Also, they had a "non-compete" clause which stated that if someone got fired or quit, they could not work for anyone else in this whole industry, basically, for a year - including their competitors.” This is good information to know. This is the first time I heard of this. Hopefully other people seeking work will read this and be mindful of this. Because if things go south with an employer, this sounds like this could kill one’s Oil Rush job career to a certain degree, unless one gets into another field, if they get stuck with a “non-compete” clause.
Thanks for posting this and everyone else here who had read this. Now, I know many companies, business, etc. have "Non-Compete" agreements. I had to "read in between the lines" of this before I started getting concerned. Without mentioning the company, here is the agreement:

"The undersigned Employee hereby agrees not to directly or INDIRECTLY compete with the business of the (name of company) and its successors and assigns during the period of employment and for a period of one year following the termination of employment and notwithstanding the cause or reason for termination."

Non compete means, according to this company, their "employee shall not own, manage, operate, consult or to be an employee in a business substantially similar to or competitive with the present business of the company or such other business activity in which the Company may substantially engage during the term of employment"

This agreement also states that their employees agrees not to disclose any information to any third parties.

I asked about the shift hours during the interview process, and they said it depended on which camp I was at. When they offered me the job, and told me the name of the camp it was, and asked me to "accept" the job offer at my earliest convenience. I asked again which shift it was (time start to time end), and that is when they gave me the flexibility speech, followed by a deadline (which was 10 p.m. MST) that night to give them an answer. That's when I asked, again, and gave them a very polite, professional reason as to why I was asking, they came back and took back their job offer.

This "Don't Ask, "Don't Tell" mentality, and to be rescinded on a job offer for asking a simple question, really has me concerned and raises more questions from everything from job safety, to potential labor and wage violations.
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Old 04-07-2012, 07:53 PM
 
8,025 posts, read 6,458,781 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiscomtngrrl View Post
Hi! Wouldn't a double shift mean a 24-hour straight shift? Aren't their laws against that? And, no, there is no pay for the three weeks off. Room and board would have been included. Not sure how many meals a day that is. I never had the chance to ask how much of a break they gave their workers in between 12 hour shifts. To see this company get nervous after asking, what I thought, was a basic question, seemed pretty shady. When people are sleep and food deprived, that is a recipe for an accident waiting to happen. Also, they had a "non-compete" clause which stated that if someone got fired or quit, they could not work for anyone else in this whole industry, basically, for a year - including their competitors.
Oh, that would be bunk. I'd never sign a non-compete clause, not if I were relocating to another state plus N.D. is a right to work state....you can get fired for nothing....keep looking.
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