BREWER, Maine — Cianbro Corp. officials say most of the modules for a massive oil refinery expansion in Texas are nearly complete, and unless they get a new contract for its Eastern Manufacturing Facility, hundreds of workers will be laid off in late April.
Just fewer than 500 employees are working at the site, according to Cianbro President Andi Vigue.
The good news is that many of the displaced workers will be offered jobs with the company in construction, which ramps up in Maine each spring, Vigue told employees during team meetings Wednesday. In three or four weeks, when some of those construction projects are solidified under contract, he will have a better idea of exactly how many jobs will be available.
“We gave [employees] an update on the project and other work” the company is undertaking in Maine, Vigue told media during a press conference Wednesday.
Motiva Enterprises LLC hired Cianbro to build 53 refinery modules for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which is in the middle of a $7 billion expansion. More than half of the modules have been completed and shipped, and the last module is scheduled to depart in June.
“We have a happy client and we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Vigue said. The Motiva job “will be completed in June and right now we don’t have any additional work” for the Brewer site.
“We’ll need to reduce the work force or shift” them to other projects, Vigue said, adding that April 27 is the date workers were told that major layoffs would occur, “that’s assuming we don’t get more work.”
While a good portion of the displaced workers will be offered opportunities at other job sites, not everybody is going to get another job.
“We don’t have enough empty seats right now” to offer all of the nearly 500 employees at the South Brewer plant a post, Vigue said. “There will be some temporary layoffs.”
Company officials are in discussions with several groups about possible projects, both for the Brewer plant and in summer construction, he said.
As company officials look for new clients, the remaining workers are finishing up the last Motiva modules, which have all been constructed.
A barge, docked at the Brewer bulkhead, is being loaded with the sixth shipment of modules, which is scheduled to leave Brewer around March 6.
As the halfway point of the Motiva project was reached in December, nine workers were cut and every week since a few more have been let go, Vigue said. The number of employees at the site is expected to drop to around 100 by June, Alan Burton, Cianbro’s vice president of human resources, safety and health, has said.
Alan Grover, company spokesman, said giving workers advance notice of the potential layoffs provides them options, and with four months before the Motiva contract ends, “we’ve got some time to lock in something else.”
Construction workers know that the field is sometimes a balancing act with projects starting and ending at different times, Vigue said.
“Our goal is to keep everybody working as long as we can, and to return [them to work at the Brewer site] as soon as we procure work,” he said.