Nfld. & Labrador

'Only the strongest will survive,' says refinery manager

North Atlantic Refining laid out its reasons for job cuts, a month after it was announced 128 people at its Come By Chance refinery would lose their jobs, and a week after union representatives told North Atlantic they would accept no job reductions.

North Atlantic Refining says layoffs necessary for business to continue

North Atlantic Refining says the cost of doing business will go up with new carbon tax regulations. (CBC)

North Atlantic Refining says its costs are higher than other refineries in North America, one of the reasons why it needs to trim its workforce.

The company laid out its explanation for job cuts Friday in St. John's, a month after it was announced 128 people at its Come By Chance refinery would lose their jobs, and a week after union representatives told North Atlantic they would accept no job reductions.

Refinery manager Dan Harris said right now the company is barely making money. When the company bought the refinery in 2014 the amount it earned on each barrel processed was around $15. Now, he said it's around $5.

"Every time we think the market has bottomed out it reaches a new bottom. So is this refinery in jeopardy of shutting down? It is a possibility," he said.

He said the company is trimming jobs to try to stay afloat. 

"We have a higher cost per barrel than other refineries in North America," said Harris, who added that the average compensation at the refinery is $125,000 a year.

Is this refinery in jeopardy of shutting down? It is a possibility.- Dan Harris, refinery manager

In November, North Atlantic said it needed to adapt to changing economic and regulatory conditions, and Harris echoed those remarks Friday.

'Only the strongest will survive'

"Refining is not going to get any cheaper or any easier," he said. "Only the strongest will survive."

The company met twice last week with the United Steelworkers, but has said the union's proposal – a commitment to zero job losses – is unworkable.

Boyd Bussey, a staff representative with United Steelworkers, tried to attend Friday's briefing but was not allowed in.

The union has a "no layoffs" clause in the collective agreement and has filed a grievance over the layoffs. An arbitrator is set to hear the case in January.

After the briefing Bussey told reporters he understands the need for the refinery to find savings.

"We are willing to work with the company to reduce the layoffs, and we believe that can be done without laying off full-time people."

With files from Peter Cowan

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