Saskatchewan

Union says potash merger 'surprisingly a good thing' for workers

The union representing Saskatchewan potash miners and maintenance workers says the PotashCorp-Agrium merger is good news for workers and it shouldn't adversely affect their jobs. The United Steelworkers is also happy about the head office remaining in Saskatoon.

United Steelworkers does not expect new potash giant to adversely affect 2,000 workers

New company to be headquartered in Saskatoon.

A United Steelworkers spokesperson says the merger of PotashCorp and Agrium is a good news for more than 2,000 unionized workers in Saskatchewan.

"Usually when we hear of a merger or an acquisition it usually shocks us and we get worried," said Mike Pulak, a USW Saskatoon representative.

"But this one is quite surprisingly a good thing."

PotashCorp and Agrium announced on Monday that they are coming together as one company. The new business doesn't have a name yet, but will have its head office in Saskatoon.
    
It will have 20,000 employees and be worth some $36 billion US.

There's no word yet on how the merger will affect staffing at either company but Pulak said the workers he represents—maintenance and miners — shouldn't be adversely affected by the merger.

"We think most of the overlap is in management positions,"said Pulak. "We can definitely see the savings there. The new company still needs to pull the potash out of the ground and if the market is there, the merger shouldn't affect us."

Pulak said the sagging potash market is of greater concern to workers right now. Recently it has led to mine production layoffs and Pulak said more could be coming.

"If the sales aren't there I can definitely see continued short-term layoffs," said Pulak. "That's normal when the market is low. So there could be some revolving layoffs."

Still, Pulak says he's optimistic the potash demand will rebound in the next couple of years.

"China and India are tighter with their revenue than they were in the past, but ultimately the world's gotta eat and potash helps that," said Pulak. "So long term I think the potash industry is going to grow."

Workers should feel good that projected growth will be managed by a new global player that's keeping deep roots in Saskatchewan, according to Pulak. 

"It solidifies the market for us. We're always worried about foreign companies that could change the landscape for all our workers," said Pulak. "We're confident that's not going to happen with this new company. Rather then trying to speak to some faceless person in another country, there's definitely a comfort level having the head office in Saskatoon." 

The PotashCorp-Agrium deal is expected to close by the middle of next year.

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