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92 North Slope workers facing layoffs offered new employment

A new oilfield services contractor for three North Slope fields said Wednesday it has offered jobs to the workers who faced the prospect of losing employment with the previous contractor, ASRC Energy Services.

ASRC notified state officials last week it would be laying off workers from Dec. 18 until Dec. 31 because the operator of the fields, Hilcorp, had engaged a new contractor. ASRC said 92 workers would be affected.

The new contractor, Anchorage-based Northern Energy Services, has offered jobs to all the affected employees, NES official David Chaput said in an emailed statement.

"We, along with Hilcorp, sincerely hope to continue relying on their experience and expertise, and will not be reducing the overall workforce," Chaput said.

The news is "awesome," said Lisa Mielke, coordinator of the state Rapid Response Team that seeks to find new jobs for terminated workers. After ASRC Energy notified the state team about the situation, Mielke began reaching out to affected employees.

"I'm excited to know that two weeks before Christmas a bunch of people won't be jobless," Mielke said.

ASRC Energy also told the state team that it had about 40 open positions it would offer terminated employees. ASRC also said it understood the new contractor would try to employ the workers.

Mielke said the news is good for the economy. After years of low oil prices, petroleum-dependent Alaska had the nation's worst unemployment and job growth in October, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The oil fields affected by the contract change are Milne Point, Endicott and Northstar.

The letter from ASRC Energy indicated Hilcorp made the contract change to reduce costs. The statement from Northern Energy Services did not discuss costs or wages.

A spokesperson for Hilcorp could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

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