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Irving Oil lays off 60 employees at Saint John refinery

·2 min read

Irving Oil laid off about 60 employees at the Saint John refinery Thursday, citing the "extreme and serious impacts" of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These positions represent about seven per cent of the refinery workforce, according to a news release issued by the company.

The job losses come on top of reductions to the contractor workforce earlier this year to 225, from its first-quarter average of about 1,000.

Irving Oil president Ian Whitcomb and Irving Oil executive vice-president Sarah Irving said the latest cut was a difficult decision.

"The collapse in demand for motor fuels, jet fuel and other refined products, together with extreme market volatility, serious negative impacts to refining margins and high levels of uncertainty about the depth and duration of the downturn in our economies, continue to create prolonged and significant challenges," they said in a statement.

"These challenges have forced our company — like others in our industry — to make major changes to our operations and we are sorry for the impact that these actions have had on our team."

The company is committed to supporting its employees through this difficult transition, they said. No other details were provided.

250 job cuts last July

Last summer, Irving Oil cut 250 people from its workforce in Canada, the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom, saying the challenges from the pandemic were "unlike any we have ever experienced."

Those jobs represented about six per cent of its 4,100 employees.

About 173 of the laid-off workers were based in New Brunswick, according to Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long, who said he had spoken to senior company officials about the cuts. "Most of those in Saint John," he had tweeted at the time.

Irving Oil's corporate headquarters are in Saint John, where it operates its refinery, the largest in Canada. It is capable of producing more than 320,000 barrels per day.

The company also owns Ireland's only oil refinery, in Whitegate, along with about 900 retail filling stations in Canada and New England.

In May, Irving said it planned to buy and reopen the Come by Chance oil refinery in eastern Newfoundland, but the deal fell through in October without either party offering an explanation.