Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Little Clarity

Folks unfamiliar with life in the oilfield seem confused about how the whole contract thing works. My family seems especially confused about who we actually work for and still seem anxious every time we are released from a job. It is all pretty simple and almost like the hierarchy you encounter in any construction project. The difference is that we are not building anything and rarely have sub contractors. Our job security is dependent on land owners or companies needing property and equipment protected. We have an underlying responsibility, which is tracking traffic in and out of the project we are working on. This record is primarily intended to serve as an accounting of who is and isn't on the premises should an emergency occur.
Here's a quick synopsis on how it all works (and I am no expert). Exploration companies determine where they feel the best chance is to find oil or gas. There are "land men" who serve as the liaison between the exploration companies and the land owners. Once permission is obtained to drill on the property a formal contract is signed between the land owner and the exploration company. Where it gets interesting (and testy) is when the mineral rights and property belong to two different people. That's a whole different issue with all kinds of legal ramifications which are not germane to this story. South Texas is unique in that it has far more gate guards than any other area of the country. There are many reasons for this from illegal immigration to exotic animal hunting and collecting. The truth is, I'm not actually sure of the exact reason. Back to the story. Once all parties agree that a gate guard is needed the call goes out to a gate guard company. As you can imagine, this is another area of contention, as the contracts are sought after and coveted. This is yet another area I am not familiar with. Some guard companies work for a particular company or two and others take what comes along. Gate guards can work the same way, contracting out to who ever offers them employment; but most seem to find a place they feel comfortable working and remain there.
What seems to confuse folks is that when gate guard(s) complete a contract and are released it doesn't mean they are let go (or fired) in the traditional sense. Technically we are kind of "in limbo" between contract opportunities; not unlike a painter, plumber or any other contractor. Most gate guards are also self employed, responsible for their taxes and health insurance. Also confusing is that, while we may work for the same company on a regular basis, gate guards do move around frequently. Thus you may find gate guards sending their loved one(s) many different mail addresses. Just like full timing, this confounds folks to no end. There is a tremendous value placed on having and maintaining a permanent address. Full timers (which gate guards essentially are) get around this by establishing a permanent address/mail drop in one state. This allows them to establish a domicile to use for residency and licensing purposes. There still remains a necessity to "go around" the drop box (for important papers and boxes; for instance), thus the use of local P.O. boxes. Just like fulltimers, there are vocations that require one to move move all around the country. Apparently the anomaly of not living in a "stick and brick" home is difficult for some folks to comprehend.

No comments:

Post a Comment