BREWER, Maine — About 100 of the nearly 500 workers at Cianbro’s Eastern Manufacturing Facility have been moved to other job sites or were laid off recently as the company’s refinery module project begins to wrap up, Joe Cote, general manager, said Tuesday.
The remaining 400 or so workers face the same fate, but company officials are working hard to find more work to keep them employed, he said.
“We’re doing everything and anything to find work for our team members,” Cote said.
Motiva Enterprises LLC hired Cianbro to build 51 refinery modules for the Motiva Port Arthur Refinery in Texas, which is in the middle of a $7 billion expansion. Thirty-nine of the modules have been completed and shipped, and the last module is scheduled to depart in June.
“We’re roughly 98 percent complete with the project,” Cote said.
To keep as many workers employed as possible, numerous Cianbro employees have been offered employment opportunities at other company work sites, some in Maine and others as far away as Texas. Employees were told at the end of February that many would be laid off or transferred this month if company officials were un-able to find another project.
“We’re executing our reduction-of-force strategy consistent with our plan,” Cote said.
At the Brewer plant, “we’ve reduced about 20 percent of the folks who were here,” he said. “We’ve transferred about 60 percent to other jobs. Another 20 percent [have] taken a temporary layoff. That leaves a small portion that chose to do something else or be laid off.
“We’ve removed 100 folks from the job” site, Cote said of the Brewer plant.
Summer construction projects for the Pittsfield-based company ramp up each spring, so Cianbro officials are hopeful that most of the Brewer employees will be transferred to other work sites.
“As we pick up other projects, … we continue to place people,” Cote said. “We remain optimistic that we’ll have” work for about 60 percent of the work force and “the effect will be as minimal as possible.”
Cianbro leaders continue to look for projects for the module manufacturing facility and are having talks with some interested parties.
“We have not inked anything, however. We’re submitting many bids … [and] if things go good, we could see something as early as this fall,” Cote said.
In 2009 there wasn’t a lot of work to bid on, he said, adding that as the economy begins to turn for the better, “we’re really seeing a lot of interest now, which is good.”
The number of employees at the site is expected to drop to around 100 by June. Those workers will be tasked with cleaning up the site and preparing it for the next project, Cote said.
As company officials look for new clients, the remaining workers are finishing up the last Motiva modules, which have all been constructed.
The next shipment of modules heading to Texas is scheduled to leave around May 15.
“The last barge, which is barge number 9, is scheduled to leave about June 3rd,” Cote said. “We’ve shipped 39 and we’ve got 12 to go.”
Workers at the Eastern Manufacturing Facility have reached two milestones in their two years of operation in Brewer, a fact Cote is extremely proud of.
Employees have logged “more than [a] million work hours without a loss-time accident,” he said. “[And] our reportable incident rate is 0.40. In the construction industry that is a stellar record.”
A reportable incident is when someone needs to have medical attention, Cote explained.
“I want to thank the team here for achieving that and working safely,” he said.
The company is holding a safety celebration this week to thank employees.