LIMA — When the Lima Refinery shuts down this fall for its annual maintenance turnaround, the contractors might not be from Ohio — a possibility which has united the Lima Building & Construction Trades Council, Lima mayor, Allen County commissioners and Shawnee Township trustees in a call to reverse a decision they say could exclude thousands of skilled craftsmen in the Lima region from the job.
“This is a slap in the face for our members that have been maintaining and building this refinery for many, many decades,” said Rick Perdue, president of the Lima Building & Construction Trades Council, who held a press conference Thursday about Cenovus Energy’s plans to hire out-of-state contractors for the turnaround.
“Our members have been working there for many generations,” Perdue said. “We know that plant inside and out, up and down, every pipe, nut and bolt; every electric pipe panel throughout the facility.”
The Lima Refinery, which has been in operation for 135 years, is under new ownership after Canadian-based Cenovus Energy formally acquired Husky Energy in January.
In the weeks since the acquisition, Perdue and others have tried to persuade Cenovus Energy and Lima Refinery management to hire local contractors for the turnaround, rather than the roughly 3,000 out-of-state workers who Perdue said will perform maintenance at the refinery for six weeks.
The Lima Building & Construction Trades, Perdue said, represents 16 trade unions and 2,500 skilled craftsmen in the Lima region alone.
“We have those resources here,” Lima Mayor David Berger said on Thursday. “And they’re very well trained.”
A Cenovus spokesperson on Thursday said that the company works with specialized contractors during its maintenance turnarounds, during which crews inspect, clean and replace equipment necessary for the plant to operate safely. The company conducted a selection process ahead of its 2021 turnaround, which media advisor Reg Curren said included unionized contractors that were considered based on safety, technical expertise and related experience.
“This temporary work is specialized and most of the qualified workers are based outside the local area,” Curren said in an email to The Lima News. “This has been true for our turnarounds whether workers are represented by building trade unions or not.”
The Lima Refinery is also hiring a new class of process operators, who will be permanent employees in Lima.
But the decision has drawn scrutiny from Berger, who along with the Shawnee Township trustees and the Allen County commissioners, requrested a meeting with Cenovus and Lima Refinery management in January to discuss the company’s short- and long-term plans in Lima.
“I’m hopeful that this is a decision that can be revisited,” Berger said. “And if not, my hope is that a similar decision in the future is not made. I just really believe that the refinery is an institution that we’ve all supported, and we want to see that kind of support also now extended to the workforce that’s here.”