East Coast Catering is defending its hiring practices as it prepares to take over the catering and accommodations contract on the Hibernia oil platform.

A company official says all existing employees with the outgoing contractor, Sodexo, were interviewed, along with current East Coast Catering employees who expressed an interest.

The company also considered qualified candidates from the local market.

The interviews were conducted by East Coast Catering management and gave first consideration to Newfoundland and Labrador residents, which is in compliance with the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia's benefit obligations, said Audrey O'Rielly, a vice-president with the catering company.

"After all interview results were tabulated and scored decisions were made as to which candidates would be best suited to provide the excellent level of service ECC is known to provide to its offshore clients," O'Rielly wrote in a statement to CBC News.

She added that East Coast Catering was awarded the contract based on a proposal that ensured a high quality of service, "enhanced with a long established ECC culture."

The successful applicants are a mixture of existing platform employees and existing East Coast Catering employees, said O'Rielly.

She said this will ensure a smooth transition.

"It is worth noting that all of the bargaining unit workers we hired to work on the platform are Newfoundland and Labrador residents," O'Rielly added.

Her comments were in response to complaints from Unifor, the union that represents about 500 Hibernia workers, that longtime employees have to compete for their jobs after contracts change hands.

Local 2121 president Tom Kennedy said only 36 of the 50 people who worked for Sodexo were re-hired by East Coast Catering.

The union has asked the provincial government to amend the Labour Relations Act to give offshore workers succession rights when contracts go from one company to another.

The province has said it is considering the request.