Northern Transportation Company Ltd. president Bill Duffy is reassuring local residents that the shipping company will not be leaving Hay River after concerns resurfaced following last month’s layoffs.
“It was a very tough decision,” said Duffy of the layoffs in early November.
“It was the result of not a great year for NTCL.”
According to one former employee, only one or two Hay River residents are still employed at NTCL.
Duffy said that NTCL used to do all of their business on of the Mackenzie River route, but now only 10 to 15 per cent of their business comes from that market.
“We are trying to size the company properly for what we are producing,” he said, mentioning that the layoffs are only temporary and not full terminations.
“It is only on a temporary basis as we put together a new business plan for 2011,” he said. “Hopefully this layoff is shorter than anticipated.”
Duffy said he remains confident that Hay River will still have a partnership with NTCL in the future.
“Hay River is still an important part,” he said. “Fuel deliveries will still be originating in Hay River and there will be quite a bit of activity with the Mackenzie Gas Project.”
Duffy added that it is difficult for NTCL to hold on to the pipeline project when it is encountering so many roadblocks, but that NTCL is expected to “see a lot of action in the next three or four years.”
Hay River Mayor Kelly Schofield said that he had discussions with Duffy a week before the layoffs, and he was assured that employees would be hired back on in January.
“We had a brief discussion,” Schofield said of the conversation he had with Duffy in late October. “He said to me that they are going to be doing some restructuring, and that Hay River is still an important aspect of the company’s functions.
“He said there would be some more layoffs, but they were looking to get their employees back to work in January.”
Schofield said that Duffy also said that Hay River would still have business coming through, but he wasn’t sure to what degree.
“I am hoping he is honest, and I will keep him to his word,” said Schofield.
“Unless I am told otherwise, I have no reason to disbelieve them.”
But Schofield said he was not surprised that NTCL laid off more employees.
“We knew this would happen, but it was just a matter of when,” he said.
The town is planning to include NTCL in all their future plans in hopes of keeping the major employer around.
Schofield mentioned two potential major projects, a regional recycling plant and Avalon’s proposed mine at Thor Lake, which would both allow plenty of business for the shipping company.
“We are definitely pushing for them,” said Schofield. “We want them to be sustainable and stay in this town, but there is only so much we can do as a town.”