When President Ronald Reagan learned that Libyan assassination squads were gunning for top American officials, he ordered the 1,500 Americans living in Libya to return home and barred other U.S. citizens from travelling to Libya. For American oil companies, the order means that they have to find campsful of new workers to man the Sahara Desert derricks dotting the oil-rich North African nation.
Many of the American workers have refused to leave and others are drifting back. But last week, at least two U.S. companies were quietly scouring Al-
berta for replacements. With unemployment high in the Canadian exploration industry and the province savaged by arctic weather, the lure of lucrative salaries, lots of vacation time and 25°C temperatures led hundreds of oil workers to answer ads in Calgary and Edmonton.
Darrell Rude, 32, was one. Rude, who grew up on a Saskatchewan farm, walked into the $200-a-day, 21st-floor suite of Calgary’s Four Seasons Hotel looking for work with ATAS Inc., a Houston-based drilling and personnel company. The firm went to Calgary to recruit 30 men for its own Tunisian operations and the operations of the National Drilling Co. of Libya. ATAS VicePresident Rod O’Hara denied he was there because of Reagan’s actions but noted that, “We’re only recruiting Ca-
nadians and British now.”
With 12 years of experience in the industry, including six months in Saudi Arabia, Rude is ready for anything. “If you’re a rig-rat, you’re either freezing your ass off or boiling.” If ATAS hires him, he will earn $3,000 a month as an assistant driller. Other monthly salaries, for rig managers, climb to about $6,200. Transportation is free, the work schedule is 35 days on the job and 35 days off—all with pay—and a $3,000 bonus for finishing a year’s contract. Says Rude: “I don’t think anybody’s in it for their health. Money’s a big factor. And you get six months’ paid leave.” In all, as many as 100 Albertans may soon be on their way to Africa. As with investment money or drilling rigs, manpower, it seems, is blind to borders.
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