Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan is cutting about 18 per cent of its international workforce.

The announcement was made on Tuesday morning as part of a massive wave of cutbacks the potash giant is making. It says 440 workers in Saskatchewan will be losing their jobs.

The Saskatoon-based company is blaming soft demand for potash and phosphates, which are used to make fertilizer.

PotashCorp's production and prices

* estimated
SOURCE: PotashCorp, World Food Bank, IndexMundi

Bill Doyle, PotashCorp president and CEO, said two Saskatchewan mines will take the brunt of the cuts.
    
"The biggest impacts will be at our Lanigan and Cory mines," Doyle said. "There's been a deterioration in all three of our businesses and in order to remain globally competitive and financially healthy, we have to make these very difficult choices today."

The company is shutting down one of two mills at Lanigan, Sask. and it is reducing its production at the Cory mine, near Vanscoy, Sask.

Workers in shock

Some of the workers at the Cory mine learned of the job cuts in early morning phone calls.

In total, 440 people are affected.   Ken Manyk, who works at the Lanigan operation, said he was called at 5:30 a.m.

"I could see a layoff coming," Manyk said Tuesday. "We thought a layoff was coming.  But I didn't see this."

Manyk said it is a difficult time of year to be without work.

"I'm looking for a job," he said. "I gotta buy gifts.  Payments to make on the house.  You know, you got kids."

Manyk said he feels for some co-workers who just joined the mine's workforce.

"I know there's other people that are probably worse than me that are [who] left good paying jobs three weeks ago, and started at the mine three weeks ago," he said. "They keep telling us it's such a great place to work.  And it was.  But, this is not the way to end it."

Doyle said the provincial government was told about the cuts only within the past 24 hours.

There will be hundreds more jobs lost elsewhere in Canada, the United States and Trinidad.

Town of Lanigan already feeling job cuts

Andrew Cebryk, mayor of Lanigan, said he found out about the cuts this morning.
    
"It wasn't exactly surprising given the events that have been happening in the potash industry in the last little while," Cebryk said.

Lanigan mayor

Andrew Cebryk, mayor of Lanigan, found out about PotashCorp's cuts Tuesday morning. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

Workers at Lanigan's potash mine also heard the news this morning as the day shift showed up for work at 7 a.m. CST. 

Rick Suchy, a member with the union, said some of the employees were told they wouldn't be working today. 

"Pretty much everybody's in shock over what's happening," Suchy said. "We don't have all the details yet. That's something I have to work on with the company going ahead this afternoon. We went from assembly lines to tables and people found out if they were going home or if they were going to work today."

Rick Suchy

Rick Suchy, union president, said they were floored by the cuts. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

Suchy said 40 per cent of people at the Lanigan mine will lose their jobs.

"It's looking like it's going to be permanent layoffs," Suchy said. "An indefinite layoff period of eight weeks. People are being sent home today actually effective immediately."
    
Suchy said the layoffs will be made based on seniority.

Cuts impact suppliers

The sweeping layoffs at PotashCorp are already rippling through companies that supply the company.

Prairie Machines and Parts makes excavating machines and conveyor belts for mines across the province.

Murray Popplewell, president of Prairie Machines and Parts, said his company laid off 45 workers, or one-third of its staff, this week.

"(It's) very hard. Very difficult," Popplewell said. "But it's a sign of the times. The people that left, it had nothing to do with them personally. Very good employees, very good people."

The company had been working on an order for six of the massive boring machines, but that order has been postponed.

"We can see the sales, they're coming back down," Popplewell said. "The capital money is not flowing as much as it used to and things all cut back."

Sask. government responds to cuts

Premier Brad Wall and the province released a statement following Tuesday's announcement.

"Obviously, this is not good news for those employees and their families," Wall said in a news release. "We will be immediately dispatching our rapid response teams to provide support and explore other opportunities in other sectors.  We are fortunate that this has occurred at a time of relative labour market strength and that our economy today is more diversified than ever.  Our economy is strong enough to absorb this kind of job loss."

Wall continued, "Revenue from potash currently accounts for about 3.5 per cent of the province's $11 billion budget."

Statement from PotashCorp CEO