Calgary

Cenovus expects to finish 2015 with 24% fewer staff than last year

Cenovus has cut its workforce faster than expected and and now expects to end the year with 24 per cent fewer employees and contractors than it had at the end of 2014.

Company paid out $3M in severance in 3rd quarter, expects that to jump to $32M in 4th quarter

Steam generators at the Cenovus Foster Creek project in northern Alberta. (Cenovus/Contributed)

Cenovus has cut its workforce faster than expected and now expects to end the year with 24 per cent fewer employees and contractors than it had at the end of 2014.

"The company has since identified additional workforce efficiencies and reduced its staff count by 700 positions for the second half of the year, double its July forecast," Cenovus said in its third-quarter report, released this morning.

The 700 reductions in the second half of the year are in addition to 800 in the first half, for a total 24 per cent reduction.

In July, the company announced expected staff reductions of 300 to 400 in the second half of 2015, after an initial round of cuts in February.

Cenovus is now projecting roughly $400 million in total cost savings this year, up from its July forecast of $280 million.

The company paid out about $3 million in severance in the third quarter and expects to incur another $32 million in severance cost in the fourth quarter, in relation to its most recent round of staff cuts.

"We're delivering on the commitments we made at the outset of 2015 to improve Cenovus's position as a low-cost producer," Cenovus CEO Brian Ferguson said in a statement.

"We've realized substantial, sustainable cost reductions, maintained capital discipline and strengthened our balance sheet. We will continue to look for additional opportunities to reduce costs, become more efficient and enhance shareholder value."

Cenovus said its staff will include about 4,000 people by year's end.

Compensation review

In a conference call with shareholders later in the day, Ferguson said the company is looking beyond job cuts as it tries to boost efficiency.

Cenovus has been known in the past, for example, for its Fridays-off policy, in which employees get a long weekend every second weekend.

"We are evaluating our compensation benefits and time-off practices," Ferguson said.

"We have completed this review and will be making changes to our practices starting in 2016 to make sure they are aligned with those of our peers and with today's current market conditions."

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