David McLoughlin provides an update from ConocoPhillips

David McLoughlin provides an update from ConocoPhillips

The coronavirus has had a dramatic impact on us all. So we took a few minutes to chat with David McLoughlin who leads our activities for ConocoPhillips at their site in Seal Sands to hear first-hand, how the onset of the virus is impacting our site operations.

David, thank you for joining us today. We appreciate that it is a challenging time for everyone, especially so within our site operations. Could you explain to the readers how the current situation has affected the operations at the ConocoPhillips site.

Reflecting back to the very start of the pandemic, it was anticipated that certain restrictions to our site operations would be necessary. However, the extent and pace of the required change, could not have been not foreseen.

At beginning of the virus outbreak, we experienced occasional disruption resulting from employees having to self-isolate.  However, the disruption significantly escalated when the decision was made by ConocoPhillips to reduce the terminal headcount down from 650 to 205. Consequently, creating a dramatic impact to our site operations.

Within a period of four hours, the Altrad site-based employees reduced by 72%. From a numbers perspective, this resulted in 160 of our employees being furloughed, 10 employees were away from work (due to self-isolation and other existing health conditions) leaving only 80 people on site, with a further 39 required to work from home.

As you can imagine, the logistics and administration of the aforementioned proved to be a huge challenge.

How have your team reacted during this period of change and uncertainty, it must be a tough time for them?

The team’s flexibility and unwavering commitment to Altrad whilst supporting the ConocoPhillips objectives, has been somewhat overwhelming. I’m extremely grateful for everyone’s patience and understanding, especially so, given how quickly events unfolded.

Collaborative working between our teams has always been evident.  Albeit, during this crisis we appear to have elevated to an even greater level.

It’s been pleasing to witness the increased level of interaction between team members, taking the time to show they care, despite all the challenges that prevail – A much more compassionate side of people seems to have materialised, which I hope will remain long after the coronavirus has faded away.

It must be difficult for members of your team, who have been sent home under the government’s “furlough” employment protection scheme. How are they coping right now?

I do appreciate the large financial impact, arising from the furloughing process, which adversely affects many of our team members. The situation is unfortunate and is very difficult for everyone concerned. It’s far from ideal, however the scheme does provide protection of employment mitigating the risk of redundancies, which without the scheme, would be inevitable.

Though it’s not without its challenges, there is a conscious effort to maintain contact with everyone periodically, to reassure them they are not forgotten, to make sure they are keeping well and to let them know we would like them back at work, just as soon as the situation permits.

I’d like to thank everyone concerned for their patience, understanding and their positivity.

David, you have spoken with great admiration for your team today, in terms of their reaction to the crisis, but how are you coping with the situation? What are you biggest challenges right now?

From a work perspective I’ve personally found the last 4-6 weeks quite trying.  The challenges arise, not from the volume and continuum of change, but from the time afforded to effectively deliver and/or comply with what is being asked for.  Consequently, more than ever I have found myself reacting to peoples’ (client, workforce, superiors) requirements of me, instead of managing them.

My primary focus right now is that we continue to provide a safe place of work for everyone working at site, to effectively support ConocoPhillips through this turbulent and uncertain period and to ensure the goodwill of our people is both recognised and appreciated.

Looking ahead, I would hope we can use the experiences we have gained to effectively plan how we return our team back to the workplace in manner which is safe, controlled and one that captures the compassion and collaborative behaviours we have seen during the past few weeks.

Do you have any closing thoughts?

I’d like to again thank everyone in the team for their response to this unprecedented event.

It is easy to think of this in statistical manner like “a 72% reduction in the onsite team”. Nevertheless, the fact remains that this rapid change and disruption has, in one way or another, impacted us all. That’s 289 people, all with families, concerns and insecurities, who have, despite it all, responded in such an admirable manner. Something we should all take a great deal of pride in. I know that I certainly do.

I’d also like to also encourage everyone to stay positive – The ConocoPhillips contract has progressively evolved over the years, delivering consistent improvement and recognised results.  Fingers crossed, work programme deferrals and manning restrictions are lifted in the very near future, allowing a return to normality?

Thank you and stay safe everyone.