How they will affect Raton and Trinidad
RATON BASIN — While layoffs by Pioneer Natural Resources were expected due to the continued low oil and gas prices, the sheer number of layoffs came as a surprise to many. Rumors had circulated among employees that there would be about 30 layoffs. Like many companies in the industry, Pioneer is restructuring its operations to remain profitable in today’s economy. Laying off about 45% of their field workforce will affect operations. Pumpers will be assigned more wells to care for and as a result will they see more overtime and may feel fatigue from the longer work hours. Will the longer hours have an effect on safety, which is a big issue in the oil and gas industry? Will some of the work be farmed out to contractors on an as needed basis or will overtime become an issue? Pumpers will now be faced with chasing problems rather than being proactive with the wells that are assigned to them and this could also affect the way the compressors in the operation are handled. As noted by one laid-off employee, the company is now allowing wells that produce below a certain level to go idle if a well suffers a problem. They may also allow compressors to be down over night instead of calling out a mechanic to fix the problem that caused it to go down. With 100 employees being laid off from the Trinidad office, employees who live in Raton and Trinidad, and only a handful of jobs available, how many
of these employees will be forced to look elsewhere for jobs, meaning looking out of the area and perhaps moving away from Raton and Trinidad? How many of those employees also have school age children who will be leaving the Raton and Trinidad school systems. Raton is already in the process of consolidating schools, reducing the number of buildings from five to three due to the decrease in enrollment over the last five years. Will these layoffs also have a large impact on the schools? Only time will tell as employees look for work and may have to move out of Raton and Trinidad to find that work. Many of the jobs listed on the KRTNradio.com web page are low-level jobs, paying a little above minimum wage, or they require certification or licensure to fulfill the requirements which could mean retraining or even a trip back to college. Many of the jobs listed are part time as well, and they offer much less in pay than Pioneer employees have grown accustomed too. In Raton, the Fair Jobs for Progress in association with the New Mexico Workforce Connections has a large number of job openings according to Sofia Ortiz, the program specialist. They too will offer some job training and other assistance in finding jobs. Ortiz noted that many of the jobs they have are skilled positions which will offer better salaries. The Colorado Workforce Center in Trinidad will be offering training services and other job seeking services in the area, and as of Tuesday they had 76 job listings for Las Animas County. A job fair is scheduled for Raton on May 13 at the convention Center from 11 am to 4 pm. According to a local Raton realtor, Raton has about 140 active for-sale listings for residential properties. In Trinidad realtors are showing around 175 residential properties for sale for all of Las Animas county. Again, if the Pioneer employees have to look outside the area to find work and are forced to move, how many more homes will go on the market or will be foreclosed as owners find themselves unable to meet those financial obligations? Raton City Manager Scott Berry says the city will have to be a bit more careful with the city budget, noting that with the loss of income, the gross receipts taxes that the city relies on for about 70% of its income will be down. We will likely see lower utility usage as people are forced to relocate. Berry noted some of the building owners in town have offered to work with people who may wish to try their hand as an entrepreneur. Berry noted that he opened a local business after leaving the mining industry. The city hopes to involve some of the economic resources in town to help employees find jobs or create jobs to help them stay in town. Only time will tell how this reduction in workforce will affect the communities of Raton and Trinidad. Since it is so close to the end of school, it will be the next school year before schools see the effects there.