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UPDATE 2-Canada's Suncor Energy to cut up to 15% of jobs as pandemic crushes oil demand

(Updates with company, union confirmations; adds background)

WINNIPEG/TORONTO, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Suncor Energy, Canada’s second-biggest oil company, said on Friday it would cut its workforce by up to 15% over the next year and a half, as pandemic travel restrictions crushed crude demand.

The reductions will affect some 2,000 non-union jobs, said Scott Doherty, a spokesman for the Unifor union.

The spread of the coronavirus has slowed economies worldwide, grounding flights and limiting road travel, resulting in weak oil prices. Canadian energy companies have also suffered from scarce capital due to chronic pipeline congestion and high emissions.

The job cuts will range from 10% to 15% over the next year to 18 months, and include attrition, voluntary severance and early retirements across all of its locations, spokeswoman Sneh Seetal said. Some 5% of the reductions will take place in the next six months, she said.

Dirk Tolman, chair of a Unifor local representing Suncor workers, said Suncor Chief Executive Mark Little addressed employees and said the company would need to cut expenses because demand and Suncor’s stock had fallen.

“We can all see where the price of a barrel of oil is now,” Tolman said. “Every oil company in the country or the world is suffering. It gets people worried for sure.”

Pipeline company TC Energy Corp this week said it was restructuring its Canadian gas operations.

Suncor shares rose 2.3%, but have lost 65% of their value this year. North American benchmark oil prices were down 4% on Friday at around $37 per barrel. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Jeff Lewis in Toronto; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)

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