Business

800 workers take voluntary buyouts at Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge

Calgary-based company aims to avoid layoffs following double-blow of pandemic and oil price plunge.

Calgary-based company says 7 per cent of staff have taken package, which should remove need for layoffs

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge says roughly 800 of its employees have opted to take a voluntary buyout offered by the company. It employed about 11,500 people across North America prior to the departures. (Jim Mone/The Associated Press)

Hundreds of workers at Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge haved opted for a voluntary buyout program as the company navigates the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented oil demand shock.

The Calgary-based company says about 800 employees — roughly seven per cent of its workforce — will be taking the buyouts that Enbridge introduced in May.

Enbridge said the buyouts are spread out across the company, which employed approximately 11,500 workers in both Canada and the United States prior to the announced departures.

Marc Weil, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, said Enbridge wanted to give its employees a choice — and avoid layoffs — as it aimed to reduce operating costs.

In an interview, Weil said the voluntary program had been successful in meeting its objective.

"We have told our employees that we don't expect that we will be going forward with any enterprise-wide layoffs at this point in time," Weil told CBC News on Wednesday.

Enbridge CEO Al Monaco, seen here in this 2019 file photo, said in May that the company planned to reduce its 2020 operating costs by about $300 million. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Last month, Enbridge reported a first-quarter loss of nearly $1.43 billion as it was hit by one-time non-cash charges in the quarter including a writedown of its investment in DCP Midstream, a joint venture in the United States.

At the time, CEO Al Monaco said the company planned to reduce its 2020 operating costs by about $300 million and will defer about $1 billion of 2020 secured growth capital spending due to the pandemic.

Weil said the company is confident that it will reach its planned overall operating cost reduction, adding the volunteer program represents a "good portion" of the $300-million goal.

The company has also offered employees educational leaves of up to two years and part-time work options. 

Departures will start soon

Weil said all staff who successfully applied for a buyout have been notified and the majority would be leaving the company within the next three weeks. 

A smaller number of departures are being staggered through the summer and into fall in areas where business continuity is critical for knowledge transition, Weil said.

A significant portion of those taking the buyout were those eligible for early retirement, he said.

Enbridge is planning to recognize the work and careers of departing staff, he added, though the pandemic means the company won't be holding the usual gatherings.

North America's oil and gas sector has been hammered by the pandemic's economic impact, with demand for fuel plunging as an international price war also flooded the market with cheap crude.

The situation has spurred oil and gas companies to slash both production and capital spending. It also led to job losses across North America, with Rystad Energy pegging the U.S. tally at over 100,000. 

With files from Canadian Press

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