BP, others to help Agrium workers

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2007

BP Alaska and other companies are making positions available to Agrium USA employees soon to be laid off as the Nikiski fertilizer production plant is mothballed.

Lisa Parker, spokeswoman for Agrium USA, said Friday that BP had reopened five closed job categories specifically inviting ex-Agrium workers to apply.

Parker said BP would fill between 20 and 25 positions and is looking for facility operators, well-site operators, mechanics (millwrights), instrument technicians and electricians, and gas-to-liquids facility operators.

"That's really someone going above and beyond," Parker said of BP, adding that all the BP jobs were in Alaska.

Parker said another local firm are coming forward to offer jobs was Home Depot. Meanwhile, Piper Morgan Associates and Source-Solutions, job-search firms, had inquired about available workers. Also offering possible jobs was the city of Unalaska, Parker noted.

Agrium USA's parent company, Agrium Inc., headquartered in Canada, announced its decision to close the Nikiski complex in September citing continuing difficulty in finding sufficient supplies of natural gas feedstock at competitive prices.

During the shutdown process, Agrium employees will see staggered layoffs as the plant is mothballed that is, shut-in, but left capable of being fired up again.

Ever since Agrium first announced its gas-supply shortage two years ago, the company has been working with the Alaska Department of Labor to ease the job transition Agrium employees will face, Parker said.

"This is the first year where we put out the number of positions and dates when terminations would occurring," she said.

Agrium and the department are setting up a transition office in the Kenai Mall to be staffed by Jeff Laube, a long-time operator at the Agrium plant, who will work over the next year to aid former employees in finding new jobs.

Laube currently has a transition office in the plant administration building at the Nikiski site, Parker said.

Dan Zacharias, Agrium's human resources manager, said the company has been getting calls from many companies offering to work with Agrium.

"We are deeply appreciative," he said.

Zacharias said the first round of layoffs would likely occur in the first week of December. Layoffs affecting about 120 of the 140 employees should be complete by the first week of June, he said.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.

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