CANADA CENOVUS OIL

Cenovus says it is freezing employee salaries and cutting back on other staffing costs such as travel budgets and IT spending. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

Cenovus says it plans to cut 15 per cent of its workforce this year and freeze all remaining employee salaries as the oil company posted a quarterly loss of $472 million on Thursday, a figure more than seven times as big as last year's loss.

The Calgary-based oil company said Thursday its sales for the past three months of its fiscal year came in at $4.34 billion. That's down from $4.83 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

While the company pumped out and sold more oil in the period, it also made a lot less money for every barrel it produced. For 2014 as a whole, Cenovus produced an average of 203,000 barrels a day, up 14 per cent from 2013.

But the ramifications of an oil price that's dropped from $105 in the summer to below $50 today are still being felt.

"These are challenging times for the oil and gas industry," CEO Brian Ferguson said. "Cenovus is taking steps to ensure we remain strong during this market downturn. We have a solid foundation supported by great assets that provide us with the opportunity to create long-term value for investors."

That plan includes an already announced 15 per cent staff reduction, the bulk of which will come from its contract workforce.

"Employee salary increases have also been suspended for 2015 and the company is significantly reducing its discretionary spending, including spending on travel, conferences, offsite meetings and information technology upgrade," Cenovus said in a release.

The quarterly loss for the quarter included a $497-million charge related to its Pelican Lake project due to the drop in oil prices and a slowing of the development plan for the project.

Last month, Cenovus cut its 2015 capital budget by $700 million to between $1.8 billion and $2 billion as it braced for a prolonged stretch of low oil prices.