Nfld. & Labrador·Video

'I'm devastated': Oil refinery workers learn their fate as layoff details revealed

Unionized workers at the North Atlantic oil refinery in Placentia Bay emerged from a very emotional and difficult meeting Wednesday night after learning details about how a massive layoff will affect their ranks.

Workers insist safety is now a very real concern as one-quarter of unionized workforce get layoff notices

Oil refinery workers find out their fate as layoff details revealed

Here and Now

4 years ago
128 workers at the oil refinery in Come by Chance are being cut as part of a sweeping job reduction at the Placentia Bay facility. 1:13

Unionized workers at the North Atlantic oil refinery in Placentia Bay emerged from an emotional and difficult meeting in Arnold's Cove on Wednesday night after learning how a massive layoff will affect them.

Nearly every job classification at the facility is coming under the knife, they say, with 107 of the nearly 400 unionized workers being laid off as a cost-cutting measure by NARL Refining.

Another 20-plus management and non-union positions were slashed last week.

"Sad day for Newfoundland," said one worker as he left the Lions Club.

"Very disappointing," added another.

One of those losing his job is Brian Dwyer of Harbour Grace. He's one of nearly 20 employees in the lab, testing hydrocarbons as they enter and leave the refinery.

Half the nearly 400 United Steelworkers who work at the Come By Chance refinery gathered in Arnold's Cove Wednesday night for a union meeting. More than 100 of them recently learned they are being laid off. (CBC)

They're all being laid off, and their duties will be carried out by a private company, said Dwyer.

"Nineteen years with the refinery … I'm devastated. I really didn't expect it," said Dwyer, his voice cracking as he spoke.

"I've got to get home, speak to my wife and let her know what's going on."

The union has warned that such a massive layoff could jeopardize safety at a facility that processes 130,000 barrels of oil daily, and Dwyer stepped up that warning Wednesday.

"I'm afraid it's going to cost someone very serious injury or worse. I've seen it before, and I really don't think they're on the right track," he said, referring to a deadly incident nearly two decades ago that claimed two lives.

Dwyer said a major downsizing of the workforce is "only adding to the stress and strife of what's going on."

The union says it will fight the layoffs, but the company stated in a recent news release that cuts are are necessary in order to secure the refinery's future.

Repeated calls by CBC News to NARL Refining's media line have gone unanswered.

The layoffs, meanwhile, take effect in March.

About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.