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Shock, disappointment over 75 layoffs at Husky Energy following $41.5-million in government funding

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Husky Energy says 75 layoffs in Argentia affect non-unionized workers as the oil and gas project remains in limbo due to the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the drop in oil and gas prices.
On Friday, the provincial government announced $41.5 million in funding for the company, matched dollar for dollar by Husky Energy, to allow the West White Rose project to be placed into warm-idle mode. The funding will allow 331 jobs to be maintained while the company considers its options on whether construction on the project will resume in 2022.

Also on Friday, the layoff notices were given to employees of SDP, a contractor working in Argentia.

In a statement, the company said the layoffs are part of the changing nature of work on the project.

“In terms of recent layoffs at Argentia, these affect non-union workers at our (concrete gravity base structure) contractor SDP and are part of the changing labour needs of the project based on its cycle. We announced in October that we were continuing suspension of major construction at sites such as Argentia for another year,” reads the statement.

“We have been completing a controlled ramp down of the site; that work is now substantially complete. We will continue to maintain crews for maintenance and preservation scopes until a decision is made on resuming construction. Skilled trades requirements will vary during 2021 depending on the scope of work.”

The money provided by the government will allow construction of living quarters, lifeboat stations, and flare booms at the worksite in Marystown, while maintenance work continues in Argentia.

Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons says he got word of the layoffs on Friday and, while the news is disappointing, the work that will continue on the project is encouraging.

“My office and I were in touch with Jonathan Brown, senior-vice president, Husky Energy Atlantic region, who advised us that SDP manages the worksite on a day-to-day basis. This includes hiring and laying off of staff as required, depending on scopes of work taking place. He advised us that he was not aware of these specific layoffs until Friday; however, he was aware that a controlled ramp down of the site was planned and that the work schedule for 2020 was scheduled to be completed at the end of the year. I have also been told by Husky that workers at the Argentia site would be aware of the planned completion of the work schedule. However, I recognize that any layoff is challenging and I empathize with these workers and their families.”

Parsons noted the original proposal from Husky did not include as much work as has resulted from the government funding for the project.

Trades NL issued a statement on Monday expressing the association’s shock at the news of the layoffs. The association wants more clarity on exactly what jobs are being maintained.

“We are seeking detail on the nature of the 331 positions announced, whether they are existing Husky Energy employees or workers associated directly with the (West White Rose) project in Newfoundland and Labrador,” reads the statement.

“Understandably, with the magnitude of this announcement, we were hopeful of more work at Argentia to get some of our trade workers back on site. It’s hard to believe more could not have been done to support displaced trade workers, within the $83-million budget.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie said the money provided should have been able to protect the jobs.

“This was supposed to be a good news event, telling us how many jobs were being created,” said Crosbie.

“Instead, within hours, we find out about 75 families who will have the joy removed from Christmas.”

Correction: A previous version of this story stated the layoofs affected Husky Energy employees. In fact, they affected a contractor hired to work on the West White Rose project in Argentia.

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