Special Reports

Local oil spill jobs exist, but fill quickly

MANATEE — A job listing for “support personnel” to help with oil spill clean-up warned that the work entails manual labor to remove crude oil on beaches, rocks and booms.

It might take place on or near water, in marshland, beach and estuary locations, in hot and humid conditions, day or night, according to an announcement from the company.

The tough description didn’t deter applicants, however. Jobs advertised for the clean-up of oil from BP’s runaway Deepwater Horizon well apparently filled up quickly.

Shamrock Environmental Corp., of Greensboro, N.C., was no longer accepting applications Monday because of the flood of replies it got when it sought temporary workers for clean-up, paying $13 an hour regular time, $19.50 an hour overtime.

“Due to an overwhelming response and changes in our customers’ needs, we are no longer accepting applications or phone calls for the Gulf Coast Environmental Clean-Up Technicians,” company employee Terri Goode wrote in an e-mail message.

At the Suncoast Workforce Board, spokeswoman Sally Hill said no local jobs related to the spill were posted in Manatee and Sarasota counties as of late last week.

With jobless figures hovering at 11.5 percent locally, those and all types of jobs remain highly sought.

“We have people coming in that are wanting any type of employment,” said Hill. “The labor market is still very, very tight.”

Job seekers trying to snag oil-spill related work should consult the state website, www.employflorida.com, which has a special portal listing oil-spill related jobs, Hill noted.

Among the listings Monday were 80 jobs reserved for residents of Citrus and Levy counties only, according to Jannet Walsh of Workforce Connection Region 10.

The jobs are to be classified as “qualified community responder,” and will pay $18-$30 per hour as part of a special program to prepare a “workforce in waiting,” Walsh said.

“That means these people will be prepared and trained to be able to react when they’re needed,” she added. “We don’t know when they’ll be needed, but we’re preparing the workforce.”

Training will be through BP, and will include hazardous materials training; workers will be expected to carry materials and supplies, rake, shovel debris and wash oil-covered items, with some operating Bobcat equipment and power washers, she said.

“This is an opportunity for them to work; unfortunately it’s because of an oil spill, but it will serve as a source of income to many who aren’t working,” said Walsh.

Other Web site listings called for temporary “oil spill cleanup” persons to work in Panama City at $11 to $22 per hour, and a plea from Port St. Joe seeking 100 people to start a 40-hour “Hazwhopper” class, focusing on correct methods of handling hazardous materials.

“We will have work in the next few weeks following the class,” the listing from Port St. Joe said.

“Please understand you will be working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day,” it added, noting successful candidates would earn $12 an hour for regular pay and $18 an hour for overtime pay.

Some listings specifically stated: “These positions are not for Vessels of Opportunity.”

That refers to a fleet of privately owned watercraft hired to do boom deployment and tending, skimming oil, gathering tar balls, assisting in the capture of oiled wildlife, delivering cargo and providing surveillance, according to a BP Web site.

The program, which was set up to employ fishermen and other boat operators whose livelihoods have been affected by the oil spill, is not really under way yet here, according to Glen Brooks, president of the Gulf Fisherman’s Association, with 500 members along Florida’s West Coast in places like Cortez, Madeira, Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

“We’re trying to keep all our boats working — fishing,” said Brooks. “If oil comes ashore here, then we may be getting into it.

“We’re trying to stay away from it up there (along the northern Gulf Coast) to give the locals a chance to go back to work. They can’t work fishing; we want to give them a chance to go to work,” he said.

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