So, about those 9,000 SNC-Lavalin jobs
|Toronto Star 11 Mar 2019 at 18:54|
That’s the number of jobs at stake if the engineering and construction giant is barred from federal contracts, according to Gerry Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s former chief of staff.
Butts made the claim in testimony to a House of Commons committee investigating whether the PM’s office pressured former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to back off from criminal prosecution of the company on corruption charges.
But industry experts say 9,000 jobs might not actually be at stake.
Where does the number come from?
SNC-Lavalin has roughly 9,000 employees in Canada, in a variety of roles. About 700 of them are at the company’s headquarters in Montreal. There are roughly 3,400 employees in Quebec, 3,000 or so in Ontario and 1,000 in British Columbia. The rest are in Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland, according to SNC-Lavalin spokesperson Daniela Pizzuto.
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So, would they all really disappear?
In a word, no. “SNC-Lavalin pulling out of Canada entirely is really a worst-case scenario, for the company. And that seems to be what the implication with the 9,000-job figure is,” says Andrew Macklin, managing editor of ReNew Canada, a trade magazine focusing on public sector infrastructure.
“Not all 9,000 employees work on federal contracts, and SNC is legally contracted to complete assignments that are in backlog, so they just can’t pack up and go,” explained Frederic Bastien, an analyst at investment firm Raymond James, who covers SNC-Lavalin.
If SNC goes, would the jobs be gone?
Also likely no, says Macklin. While some of the employees at headquarters and other back-office functions might be lost, the bulk of the company’s Canadian employees and subcontractors are working on infrastructure projects that still need to be done, no matter which company’s working on them, he added.
“Would the industry be able to absorb that much engineering talent? Unequivocally, yes,” said Macklin. “It might not be instantly, but people will be hired. The work still has to happen.”
In other words, even if thousands of Canadians lose their jobs at SNC-Lavalin, most of them would probably be hired by other companies.
Is there really that much work?
Yup. With aging municipal infrastructure across the country, as well as new projects in the renewable energy industry or hydroelectric projects, there’s no shortage of the kind of large-scale infrastructure work SNC-Lavalin specializes in, according to Macklin. “There’s a desperate need for billions and billions of infrastructure work in this country. Look at the Toronto area, for example. How many transit projects are being done?”
Who’d benefit from an SNC-Lavalin ban?
While they’re not at the same scale as SNC-Lavalin, there are other companies who’d be in a better position without the Montreal-based giant in the picture. Among the ones cited by Macklin and other industry experts are Calgary-based Aecon Group, London, Ont.’s EllisDon, Montreal’s WSP Global and AECOM Canada, a local subsidiary of an L.A.-based multinational. There are also smaller companies specializing in particular niches, such as Calgary-based Bantrel, which focuses on the oil, gas and chemical industry.