ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The head of a Newfoundland and Labrador labour organization says there were hopes a few dozen tradespeople might be rehired at Husky’s West White Rose worksite in Argentia, N.L., after last week’s announcement of $41.5 million in federal funding for the project.
Instead, TradesNL director Darin King says he’s flabbergasted to hear of more layoffs that will leave just 10 skilled tradespeople at a site that once employed 2,700.
King says he found out Friday that 15 trade workers and 60 project management staff would be laid off from the site in Argentia where the bulk of Husky’s massive concrete gravity base offshore oil platform is being built.
Layoff news has plagued the site since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Friday’s news came just a day after a big press conference to announce the $41.5 million aimed at maintaining jobs at the two West White Rose worksites.
Husky spokeswoman Colleen McConnell says the layoffs affect non-unionized workers employed by the company’s contractor, SNC-Lavalin-Dragados-Pennecon General Partnership or SDP.
McConnell would not confirm the number of layoffs, and SDP did not respond to a request for comment.
King says the funding is expected to boost the number of tradespeople working at Husky’s Marystown, N.L., site on Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, but he’s disappointed that tradesworkers at the Argentia site are continuing to face job losses.
"For those that are working on site, they're just perplexed. They can't understand how we could have such a huge announcement one day and literally 15, 16 hours later find out there's job losses when the announcement was intended to protect jobs," King said in an interview.
Husky Energy announced in October that construction on its massive concrete offshore oil platform was suspended until at least 2022 as the company reconsidered its future in the province. The West White Rose project would extend the life of Husky's White Rose oilfield, about 350 kilometres off the coast of St. John's. A spokesperson at the time said abandoning all operations was a possibility.
During last week's funding announcement for the company, Premier Andrew Furey said Husky was matching the public money with its own $41.5 million investment. The arrangement doesn't guarantee the West White Rose project would be revived, but King said he's still behind the province's decision to support the project.
However, he would like to know exactly how the public portion of the money will be spent, and he's written a letter to Husky asking for details. He sent the letter to Furey and Energy Minister Andrew Parsons as well.
"Husky has an obligation to speak to this and they have an obligation to speak to it very quickly," King said. "People are not happy, and people have a right to know where their taxpayer money is going."
In an emailed statement, Parsons said he was not aware of the layoffs until Friday. He said his office contacted Jonathan Brown, Husky's Atlantic senior vice president, who said he also wasn't aware until Friday.
Parsons said the 331 positions supported by the government funding include trades positions largely located at the Marystown site.
"Husky’s original plan, without government investment, would have resulted in the suspension of all construction activities and put both the Argentia and Marystown sites in preservation and maintenance mode," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2020.
The Canadian Press