PotashCorp pledges more staff, execs in Sask.

Saskatchewan fertilizer giant PotashCorp has further fleshed out its “pledge” to its former owner with specific promises of more jobs in the province and the return of several senior executives to its Saskatoon head office.

Premier Brad Wall on Monday released details of the company’s “pledge to Saskatchewan” as laid out in a letter from PotashCorp’s Chicago-based CEO Bill Doyle.

The “pledge” was initially made in October 2010 as PotashCorp built public support for its successful defense against a hostile takeover bid by Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton.

The company, whose 5,400-odd employees worldwide now include 2,229 in Saskatchewan, said Monday it will have 2,528 workers at its Saskatchewan potash mines by 2015, up from 2,016 in 2010, and 300 staff at its Saskatoon office by the end of 2013, up from 209 at the end of 2010 and over 250 expected by the end of 2011.

Doyle’s letter Monday also promised 11 of the company’s 14 senior executives would be “working in Saskatoon” by the end of March this year, up from nine. The only executives remaining at the firm’s Chicago-area office will be those mainly responsible for U.S. sales and U.S. phosphate and nitrogen operations, he wrote.

The formerly Crown-owned company, privatized in 1989, also pledged it would develop “increased training and employment opportunities” for the province’s First Nations and Metis people, the province said.

Doyle also pledged to make the company the “No. 1 corporate citizen in Saskatchewan” by boosting its community grants and donations to one per cent of consolidated before-tax income on a five-year rolling average.

That includes a commitment to Wall’s plans for a helicopter-based Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) mobile air ambulance program in Saskatchewan, for which Doyle said the company will announce specifics “in the coming months.”

Noting the company’s staffing pledges amount to “more than 600 more people working for PotashCorp in Saskatchewan by 2015,” Wall called the company “an important part of the new era of growth in the new Saskatchewan and I thank them for their strong commitment to our province.”

“Normal course”

Provincial opposition leader Dwain Lingenfelter was skeptical of the company’s pledges, saying in a separate release Monday that they fell “far short of the public’s expectations.”

“The question remains whether (Doyle) and his family will be relocating to Saskatoon,” Lingenfelter said Monday. “If the CEO lives and works in Chicago, then by all accounts, the head office will be in Chicago.”

The public, he said, “understood that part of (PotashCorp’s) commitment was that Mr. Doyle and his family would reside in Saskatchewan. This includes living, working and contributing to the city of Saskatoon as full-time residents… Where will Bill Doyle be working? Is he moving back to Saskatoon or will he just be ‘visiting’?”

There’s also no memorandum of understanding between the province and PotashCorp to legally enforce the company’s pledges, said Lingenfelter, a Regina NDP MLA.

“All the other so-called commitments are just the Potash Corporation’s ongoing requirements to be an acceptable corporate citizen in this province,” he added. “Continuing with Canpotex, continuing with expansions announced years ago, trying to increase their Aboriginal workforce, and giving more to community groups are all things any corporation needs to do in the normal course of business.”

The province, he said, needs to review Saskatchewan’s potash royalty structure to get the “maximum benefit” from its potash resource.

“Last fall, the people of Saskatchewan stood up for the Potash Corporation and this is how they repay us? I think it’s time to review our relationship with the Potash Corporation and all these huge potash companies.”

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