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HOVENSA VP BLASTS LABOR COMMISSIONER

Nov. 30, 2001 – Hovensa Vice President Alex Moorhead scolded Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin on Thursday for remarks made about the company that Moorhead said could lead to "labor tension" and even violence at the giant St. Croix refinery.
Earlier this week, Benjamin charged that Hovensa's change of its primary maintenance contractor from Jacobs IMC to Wyatt V.I. was an effort to deny benefits to Jacobs workers. Moorhead denied the allegations.
"Even a large company, such as Hovensa, is entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process before the chief labor officer in the Virgin Islands government places a cloud of impropriety over the company," Moorhead said, "particularly under an administration that portrays itself to be 'business friendly.'"
Moorhead said Hovensa hired Jacobs IMC in 1999 "with great optimism" about the firm's ability to improve the competitive position of the refinery by reducing its high maintenance costs.
But for a number of reasons, Moorhead said, the results weren't what Hovensa had hoped for, and the company earlier this year solicited bids for a new contractor. In late September, he said, Hovensa notified Jacobs IMC that Houston-based Wyatt had won the contract and would take over on Jan. 1, 2001.
That move was relayed to the Labor Department in October and by Jacobs IMC to its employees in a Nov. 2 letter that said about 250 workers would by laid off. News of the layoffs spurred Benjamin to say that by bringing in a new contractor, Hovensa was trying to manipulate workers so that they would not accrue long-term benefits.
Moorhead said he was "shocked" that Benjamin would make such statements "without inquiring about Hovensa's reason for changing contractors." He added: "Hovensa expects workers hired by Wyatt will receive wages and employee benefits similar to those currently being provided by Jacobs IMC, which include health benefits and a 401K plan for retirement income."
He said Hovensa hopes Wyatt will hire the laid-off Jacobs IMC workers. But he noted that fewer overhauls are scheduled in 2002 than in 2001, and "therefore, there will not be as much need for manpower."
Further, he said, "Wyatt must have a free hand to put in place key people and policies to ensure that safe and efficient performance is achieved to assure the refinery's competitiveness."
Moorhead cautioned Benjamin not to be "hasty in impugning the actions of Hovensa and thereby causing unwarranted animosity against the company, which can lead to labor tension and even violence in the refinery."

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Nov. 30, 2001 - Hovensa Vice President Alex Moorhead scolded Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin on Thursday for remarks made about the company that Moorhead said could lead to "labor tension" and even violence at the giant St. Croix refinery.
Earlier this week, Benjamin charged that Hovensa's change of its primary maintenance contractor from Jacobs IMC to Wyatt V.I. was an effort to deny benefits to Jacobs workers. Moorhead denied the allegations.
"Even a large company, such as Hovensa, is entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process before the chief labor officer in the Virgin Islands government places a cloud of impropriety over the company," Moorhead said, "particularly under an administration that portrays itself to be 'business friendly.'"
Moorhead said Hovensa hired Jacobs IMC in 1999 "with great optimism" about the firm's ability to improve the competitive position of the refinery by reducing its high maintenance costs.
But for a number of reasons, Moorhead said, the results weren't what Hovensa had hoped for, and the company earlier this year solicited bids for a new contractor. In late September, he said, Hovensa notified Jacobs IMC that Houston-based Wyatt had won the contract and would take over on Jan. 1, 2001.
That move was relayed to the Labor Department in October and by Jacobs IMC to its employees in a Nov. 2 letter that said about 250 workers would by laid off. News of the layoffs spurred Benjamin to say that by bringing in a new contractor, Hovensa was trying to manipulate workers so that they would not accrue long-term benefits.
Moorhead said he was "shocked" that Benjamin would make such statements "without inquiring about Hovensa's reason for changing contractors." He added: "Hovensa expects workers hired by Wyatt will receive wages and employee benefits similar to those currently being provided by Jacobs IMC, which include health benefits and a 401K plan for retirement income."
He said Hovensa hopes Wyatt will hire the laid-off Jacobs IMC workers. But he noted that fewer overhauls are scheduled in 2002 than in 2001, and "therefore, there will not be as much need for manpower."
Further, he said, "Wyatt must have a free hand to put in place key people and policies to ensure that safe and efficient performance is achieved to assure the refinery's competitiveness."
Moorhead cautioned Benjamin not to be "hasty in impugning the actions of Hovensa and thereby causing unwarranted animosity against the company, which can lead to labor tension and even violence in the refinery."