Low pricing spells layoffs for PotashCorp

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan is cutting 140 jobs.

SASKATOON — Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan is cutting 140 jobs and temporarily laying off an undetermined number of other workers as the company reduces output amid weak prices.

PotashCorp (TSX:POT) says its operation at the Cory potash facility, southwest of the company’s head office in Saskatoon, will reduce output capacity by 43 per cent to 800,000 tonnes from 1.4 million tonnes.

Some 100 permanent jobs and 40 temporary positions are being cut to reduce the workforce at Cory by 29 per cent to 350 positions.

Most of the positions are to be cut in February, with the rest in the third quarter of 2017.

The United Steel Workers Local 7458, which represents the Cory workers, said it did not want to comment immediately on the layoffs.

Saskatchewan Economy Minister Jeremy Harrison says PotashCorp CEO Jochen Tilk called Premier Brad Wall on Tuesday to tell him about the cuts.

Harrison says PotashCorp told the province that market conditions are difficult.

“It is concerning,” Harrison said Wednesday at the Saskatchewan legislature.

“PotashCorp obviously had to make decisions with respect to their own business about moving production to Rocanville, which is my understanding what they’re doing.”

PotashCorp said in a news release that the decision is being made to optimize production at its lowest-cost operations, including Rocanville, near the Manitoba boundary, and other Saskatchewan sites.

Spokesman Randy Burton said the company knows it’s difficult for employees and families.

“(It’s) a hard decision to take and we’re going to do everything we can to treat our employees respectfully and provide them with the best assistance we can in terms of severance and transition,” Burton said.

The company also said production will be temporarily reduced at two other locations southeast of Saskatoon. The Lanigan facility will curtail production for six weeks beginning in January and the Allan facility will do so for 12 weeks beginning in February.

The number of temporary layoffs aren’t known yet.

PotashCorp says it’s looking for opportunities to reassign employees during the down time.

“Cory is a higher-cost facility so we want to be producing more of that red potash at lower-cost locations,” Burton said. “Overall, our employee count in Saskatchewan is higher now than two years ago.”

— With files from CJWW

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