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23 out of work at Come By Chance refinery, but 2 companies are interested in buying

‘We are ready to go. We are trained,’ says union president

On Thursday 23 people were given the notice they will be out of work, marking another grim day for the Come By Chance oil refinery as the future of its operation remains hanging in the balance.

“Today is a bad day again,” Glenn Nolan, president of United Steelworkers Local 9316, told CBC News.

“We’re getting a lot of calls. It’s very sombre.”

Nolan said there remain about 50 or 60 union members with jobs at the refinery, from operations, maintenance, millwrights, boilermakers and engineers.

On Monday workers received notice from the owner, North Atlantic Refining, that a deal to sell the facility to Irving Oil had collapsed, and that the entire operation could be shuttered if costs could not be cut. In March the refinery stopped processing fuel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nolan said the cost-cutting explanation was given to him again ahead of Thursday’s layoffs.

“The company is cutting back in the next few days, waiting on more options to see where they go,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nolan said he has had daily conference calls with Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons since Monday’s announcement, and Thursday’s call provided some hope for the facility..

“He told us that they’re talking to Origin, and that they’re doing their due diligence and that’s a good thing,” said Nolan.

Origin International Inc. — a private company in the United States that specializes in recycling used oil — said in a statement Monday it’s interested in buying the Come By Chance refinery, but it’s awaiting clarity on the refinery’s status from current owners North Atlantic.

Origin International also expressed interest in buying the refinery in June.

Nolan said another company has expressed interest in buying the refinery but didn’t divulge further details.

“The government are in talks, which is good. At least we’re hearing something,” he said.

“We have the best workforce that money or anything can buy. We are ready to go. We are trained. We can do anything.”

Work ongoing

On Thursday, Parsons told reporters the provincial government has been “extremely active” in talks with Origin International but wouldn’t provide more detail on those conversations.

Parsons said it’s up to Origin and North Atlantic to work out a deal, and the province hasn’t been asked to play a role in the deal yet.

“There’s a lot of work that has to happen. We’ve got a lot of different options and scenarios that are flowing through. We’re considering everything,” Parsons said.

“There’s nothing off the table that we won’t consider, but that’s where we are, in the middle of that.”

The refinery is crucial to Come By Chance, providing roughly a third of its tax base, said Mayor Chad Giles.

With the majority of the refinery’s workers coming from Come By Chance and surrounding areas, Giles said, there’s a feeling of worry hanging over the town. Many residents hope they will continue to have a job to go to as a potential shutdown or a new deal shakes out.

“It’s their livelihood. Everyone is worried,” Giles said. “If anything were to happen to it, this town wouldn’t be in very good shape.”

But Giles, too, said he remains optimistic with word that there are some companies interested in buying the facility.

But some industry experts say it’s not a good time to get into the refinery business.

Marc Amons, a senior research analyst with Wood Mackenzie, an industry research and consultancy group, told CBC News the market is flooded.

“There’s more capacity available in the refining system than the market currently demands. As such, the profit margins are very narrow for refineries,” he said.

“So the profitability of refining right now is very weak compared to where the industry would typically be operating.”

At the House of Commons on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to jabs from Erin O’Toole, leader of the Opposition, about what the federal government is doing to ensure jobs won’t be lost at the refinery.

“We have been working with them very closely, both our minister of natural resources and the new premier, whom I spoke to just days ago,” Trudeau said.

Source: CBC | This text was excerpted from the media outlet cited on October 8, 2020 and is provided to Noia members for information purposes only. Any opinion expressed therein is neither attributable to nor endorsed by Noia.