Nfld. & Labrador

Committed to safety, refinery owners say after big layoffs

North Atlantic Refining Limited said Friday afternoon that safety at its oil refinery comes from "appropriate work practices, protocols, and training," something that will not change after 128 employees walk out the doors.

More than 120 employees will lose their jobs in layoffs

An employee walks the grounds of the Come By Chance refinery in November. (CBC)

Owners of the Come By Chance refinery say their commitment to safety will not waver after a big layoff at the company.

North Atlantic Refining Limited said Friday afternoon that safety at its oil refinery comes from "appropriate work practices, protocols, and training," something that will not change after 128 employees walked out the doors.

Last week, leaders of the union representing workers at the Come By Chance operation raised concerns that the exodus would threaten safety. But North Atlantic says nothing will change.

"The refinery's commitment to safety will not waver; safety is a core value of the company and will remain the cornerstone of how the refinery operates, now, and into the future," Dan Harris, the refinery manager, wrote in a statement.

Safety concerns

Brian Dwyer, an employee at the Come By Chance refinery, says he's concerned about safety following layoffs. (CBC)

Layoffs at the refinery, announced Nov. 9, will claim the jobs of 107 unionized employees and at least another 20 managers and non-union workers.

Union leaders claimed the layoffs would jeopardize worker safety.

"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," worker Brian Dwyer said.

There were two high-profile incidents at the site in recent weeks — a small explosion that attracted police to the site, and a fire at a caustic tank.

But North Atlantic says its operation is safer than most.

"We have operated this facility for over 2,000,000 hours without any serious injuries. The injury rate at this Facility is 88% better than the provincial rate," Harris said in a statement.

Retirement program coming

North Atlantic said it would introduce a retirement incentive program for some employees in an effort to reduce layoffs.

The Pension Incentive Program will provide some workers with an opportunity to retire with a "financial bonus," it said.

"Participation in this program will reduce the number of employees being laid off and assist in achieving the necessary reduction in the workforce," the company wrote.