Nov. 29, 2001 — No off-island workers have been imported to fill the places of about 250 workers who will lose their Hovensa refinery jobs at the end of the year because of a change in maintenance contractors, according to a local union official.
Frederick Joseph, subdistrict director of the United Steelworkers Local 8248, said that Houston-based Wyatt Field Service Co. has not made any major personnel moves in preparation for taking over the maintenance contract. Joseph heads the union that represents the 240 to 250 Jacobs IMC workers who will be laid off because Hovensa dropped the company as the primary maintenance contractor at the refinery.
Joseph said Wyatt has about five administrative people at the refinery. "They have hired no local people and they have not brought in any people from off-island yet," he said.
Hovensa officials confirmed earlier this week that the company decided to discontinue its contract with Jacobs IMC in September. Jacobs was responsible for conducting major maintenance projects and overhauls of equipment, also called turnarounds. Word of the change was made public after Jacobs IMC sent letters to employees on Nov. 2 informing them that 240 to 250 workers would be laid off.
Earlier this year, Jacobs IMC lost its contract to hydro-blast mechanical equipment, paint and clean storage tanks at the refinery. When that happened, 185 workers were laid off. But they were picked up by Triangle Construction and Maintenance, which was awarded the contract by Hovensa.
In that case, Joseph said he arranged for the laid-off workers to be the first hired by Triangle without having to take pre-employment tests. He is trying to get Wyatt to consider a similar agreement.
"I am speaking to the people at Jacobs that these employees will secure jobs with Wyatt," Joseph said, adding that at "this juncture, all I can do is go to them and ask them to do it."
Meanwhile, Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin responded to criticism that his department was slow to respond to the change of contractors at the refinery and the possibility of the layoffs. But he said Labor has no control over business decisions other than ensuring that contract agreements are upheld.
"We will enforce the law where applicable," Benjamin said. "[Hovensa] chose to go to another contractor. That is their right. We are going to try and take care of the employees that will be laid off."