Newfoundland and Labrador is reeling from a series of fossil job losses this week, with three different companies all announcing definite or likely cuts.
On Wednesday, Husky Energy announced as many as 50 layoffs at its idled West White Rose offshore oil project, The Telegram reports, though the company wouldn’t confirm the exact number. Workers in Come By Chance were bracing for news that New Brunswick-based Irving Oil was about to permanently close the province’s only refinery, The Canadian Press writes. And Suncor Energy confirmed Thursday that it was firing about 100 contractors who’d finished the job of maintaining and preserving the Terra Nova FPSO, a production vessel that hadn’t been used in about a year and is now anchored in Conception Bay, CBC says.
“This decision is one we do not take lightly. It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of work,” said Suncor spokesperson Sneh Seetal. But “once the FPSO’s topside preservation activities have been completed, we simply do not have additional work at this time.”
Husky had announced a review of West White Rose in early September, after shelving plans to expand the project due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its quest for a bailout was led by Senior Vice President Janet Annesley, a former chief of staff to then-federal natural resources minister Jim Carr, who said the company had been pushing federal and provincial governments for “several months” to invest taxpayers’ dollars in the project. “As a company, we have made it a priority to protect our balance sheet and preserve liquidity, which means it’s impossible to—on our own—fund the project to completion,” she said in September.
Now, “Husky Energy has made some difficult decisions and have had to say goodbye to some of our colleagues today,” the company said in a statement. “We manage our work force in accordance with our business plan and activities,” and “our people strategy revolves around ensuring we have the right structure and work force to support our long-term business plan.”
The provincial government had previously said Husky’s request for a direct investment in the project was too rich for its blood. A decision from the federal government, on top of the C$320-million, no-strings-attached bailout fund announced last month by Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, is said to be still pending.
In Come By Chance, workers at the 135,000-barrel-per-day refinery were “bracing for layoffs in the wake of news that a deal to purchase the facility has fallen apart,” CP reports. Irving “announced in May that it had signed a deal to purchase North Atlantic Refinery Ltd., the operator of the refinery. But on Tuesday morning, Irving released a statement saying the agreement for the purchase had been terminated, without providing additional details.”
“Terrible,” said convenience store operator Holly Hapgood in Arnold’s Bay, NL. “Terrible. It will be one big spiral effect.”
“It’s devastating news,” said Steelworkers local president Glenn Nolan. “The workers, they’re in shock,” knowing that a permanent shutdown is “a very good possibility. That’s what the scare is about.”
CP has details on the refinery’s history and its importance to the surrounding communities.
The Suncor layoffs in Conception Bay have to do with a production vessel that was slated for a refit at a shipyard in Spain until the pandemic hit in March, CBC says. The company had originally intended to extract another 80 million or so barrels of oil from the Terra Nova oilfield over a 10-year period. But now, those plans are uncertain.
“We’re continuing to work with stakeholders to determine the best option to recover the remaining resources from the Terra Nova field,” Seetal told CBC. “Until that time, we’re working to preserve the FPSO quayside until we’ve been able to identify a viable path forward.”