August 14th, 2020

Aurora lays off 25% of local workers

By COLLIN GALLANT on February 13, 2020.

NEWS FILE PHOTO
A look at the Aurora Sun plant in mid November. An employee at the local facility has confirmed 11 employees were let go in early February.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Layoff notices were delivered to 11 employees at Aurora Cannabis’ Medicine Hat office, amounting to one-quarter of the local workforce, but construction on the massive greenhouse continues according to sources who spoke with the News this week.

More than 30 company employees remained in place on Monday, including the person who spoke on condition of anonymity, though several managers were let go, along with a number of security guards.

That doesn’t include tradespeople, described as a “skeleton crew,” who are continuing with the stated plan to finish a portion of the facility ahead of partial commissioning planned for this summer.

The company’s policy is not to comment prior to the release of its second-quarter financial statements, which are set to be released this morning.

That could provide further details about an operating plan and capital spending after last week’s announcement that 500 jobs would be cut across the company and capital projects reviewed to make Aurora profitable this year.

That project review put a focus on the Aurora Sun project in Medicine Hat, which has been under construction since late 2018. The latest statement details a slowdown on international projects for the Edmonton-based firm, as well as capital related to technology and marketing programs.

However, with slower than normal sales of recreational cannabis experienced across the 18-month-old legal market have created a feeling of uneasiness in the Hat location.

“Oh, absolutely,” the employee told the News. “Obviously, you hope for the best the best and plan for the worst. I’m not sure that happened here. It’s obvious they overshot.”

The company has not responded to inquiries from the News about the future of the facility, but the plan appears to be one announced in November: to move ahead with opening six of a potential 30 grow rooms in June.

However, those will be manually harvested, while a well advertised automated production system may be installed at a later date, the employee said.

Contractors and subtrades workers, who were released from the site following the scaleback, held a late January meeting with company officials and told the News a similar story.

The building was proposed as “the most technologically advanced” in the world when Terry Booth, then Aurora’s CEO, announced the plan in April 2018 along with a major power deal with the City of Medicine Hat – a deal that included $6 million in waived development fees.

The facility grew from the original plan to build 1.2 million square feet of growing space to 1.6-million as of a spring 2019 press event held at the site in northwest Medicine Hat.

The company employed about 3,000 globally and is connected to a number of other medicinal cannabis and CBD companies.

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