23 people were made aware of their absence from work on Thursday, marking another dark day for the Come By Chance oil refinery as the future of its operation remains on the line.
“Today is another bad day,” Glenn Nolan, president of United Steelworkers Local 9316, told CBC News.“We get a lot of calls. It is very dark. ”
Nolan said there were around 50 or 60 union members left with jobs in the refinery, operations, maintenance, millwrights, boilermakers and engineers.
On Monday, workers received notice from owner North Atlantic Refining that a deal to sell the facility to Irving Oil had collapsed and the entire operation could be shut down if costs could not be reduced. In March, the refinery stopped processing fuel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nolan said the explanation for the cost reduction was given to him again ahead of Thursday’s layoffs.
“The company will be scaling back its activities in the coming days, waiting for more options to see where they are going,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nolan said he had had daily conference calls with Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons since Monday’s announcement, and Thursday’s call gave a little hope for installation.
“He told us they were talking to Origin, doing their due diligence and that’s a good thing,” Nolan said.
Origin International Inc. – a private company in the United States that specializes in recycling used oil – said in a statement Monday that it wanted to buy the Come By Chance refinery, but was awaiting clarification on the status of the refinery. from the current owners of the North Atlantic.
Origin International has also expressed interest in purchasing the refinery in June.
Nolan said another company had expressed interest in purchasing the refinery but did not disclose further details.
“The government is 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 it all. “
Work in progress
Parsons told reporters on Thursday that the provincial government had been “extremely active” in talks with Origin International, but would not provide further details on those conversations.
Parsons said it was up to Origin and North Atlantic to strike a deal, and the province has yet to be asked to play a role in the deal.
“There is a lot of work to be done. We have a lot of different options and scenarios. We consider everything, ”Parsons said.
“There’s nothing on the table that we won’t consider, but that’s where we are, in the middle of it. “
The refinery is crucial to Come By Chance, providing about a third of its tax base, Mayor Chad Giles said.
The majority of workers at the refinery coming from Come By Chance and surrounding areas, Giles said, a sense of worry hangs over the town. Many residents hope they will continue to have jobs in the event of a potential closure or new deal.
“It’s their livelihood. Everyone is worried, ”Giles said. “If anything happened to him, this town wouldn’t be in great shape. ”
But Giles also said he remains optimistic that some companies are keen to buy the facility.
But some industry experts say now is not a good time to get into refineries.
Marc Amons, senior research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, an industry research and advisory group, told CBC News the market is inundated.
“There is more capacity available in the refining system than what the market currently demands. As such, the profit margins are very narrow for refineries, ”he said.
“So the profitability of refining is currently very low compared to where the industry would generally operate. ”
On Thursday in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to comments by Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole on what the federal government is doing to ensure that jobs are not lost at the refinery.
“We are working very closely with them, both our Minister of Natural Resources and the new Prime Minister, to whom I spoke just a few days ago,” Trudeau said.
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