July 13, 2022 |
Although HF Sinclair would neither confirm nor deny reports that nearly 100 employees were laid off at the plant in Sinclair Tuesday, the company acknowledged in an email to Bigfoot 99 last night that it has made “changes to organizational structures across the newly acquired facilities.”
The changes were made “to operate more efficiently, while maintaining safety and reliability,” the statement read.
At least 97 employees were laid off at refinery in the Town of Sinclair yesterday.
Among them were 35 in the trucking department, Bigfoot 99 learned through employees and their families. The company remained silent about the layoffs through much of the day. Some employees reported being walked off the plant site at the end of their shifts. Others were told that they would be laid off at the end of September.
One employee posted on their social media page, “The Sinclair chapter has come to a close in my life. I am sad I didn’t really have a chance to really say goodbye to everybody.”
If the size of the layoffs is true and more are pending, the impact on the local economy will be significant. Employees at the plant in Sinclair have been worried about their jobs since the refinery was purchased last year. In an email last night from the company’s director of communications, Corinn Smith, did not confirm the layoffs. However, she did say that “all impacted employees are invited to apply for other open positions at the refinery.” She acknowledged that “this is difficult news” without confirming any layoffs.
Throughout the afternoon Tuesday, phone calls to refinery offices in Sinclair and Cheyenne were not returned. Bigfoot 99 then contacted Governor Mark Gordon’s office and requested a response. The governor’s office acknowledged last night that our email was the first time they learned of the situation.
In fact, the governor’s office appeared to be kept in the dark about the situation by the company. At first, we were told to hold on while they investigated. We continued to gather information, as well, and sent updates. Ivy Castleberry, a policy advisor to the governor, said Bigfoot 99’s reporting was “not matching up with the information” the governor’s office had received. That was at 7 p.m.
At 7:29 p.m., the corporate communications officer finally responded to our email. Smith said, “We care about our employees and understand this is difficult news.” She said the company has Employee Assistance Program Counselors on site for anyone who needs to talk and we’re working with the state of Wyoming to find alternative employment opportunities.”
A short time later, Castleberry told Bigfoot 99 that Governor Gordon had spoken to someone at HF Sinclair. The details of the conversation are not known, but the governor released a statement after the call. Governor Gordon said he was troubled to learn of the layoffs. “My greatest immediate concern is with the displaced workers and the impact on the communities of Rawlins and Sinclair. My administration stands ready to mobilize resources to assist the workers and their families, as well as the surrounding communities.”
Commissioner Sue Jones told Bigfoot 99 Tuesday afternoon that a corporate management team had been in in town on Monday, and left Tuesday. Jones said one of the team members, Josh Jemente wanted to meet Tuesday morning, but commissioners were attending the funeral of Deputy Jeff Walton.
Jemente is the Director of Government Affairs with HF Sinclair in Texas. When Bigfoot 99 reached Jemente Tuesday afternoon, he did not deny the layoffs, but he would not elaborate on them either. Jemente asked me to email my questions to the media division.
Bigfoot 99’s questions included:
1. How many positions were eliminated?
2. What positions were eliminated? Administration? Production? Or Both?
3. Will the refinery reduce production as a result of the layoffs?
4. What impact will this have on domestic fuel supplies?
5. Are these layoffs temporary because of the economy or permanent?
None of those questions were answered in the email from the corporate office last night. Bigfoot 99 will continue investigating.
The state of refineries, their capacity and transportation abilities, are topics on the agenda at Friday’s meeting of Governor Mark Gordon’s task force. The task force is charged with exploring ways to lower fuel prices for Wyoming residents.
In an email last night, the governor’s office said they also are working to verify information about yesterday’s layoffs at the refinery. The governor’s policy said they would send an update over this morning as soon as one is available.
One local person familiar with the situation said they weren’t sure if they could “legally” comment on the situation. They added, “I am devastated for the community.”
Pictured above: File photo of Sinclair Refinery. Photo by Cali O’Hare/Bigfoot 99.