Mill to close early: Abitibi

Terry Roberts
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Union wants severance for woods workers

The two paper machines at the AbitibiBowater newsprint mill in Grand Falls-Windsor will fall silent for good sometime between Feb. 12 and 15, a company official confirmed Thursday, bringing to an end a century of paper-making in Central Newfoundland.

The closure will result in the elimination of roughly 750 direct jobs at the mill, in the woods and at the port in Botwood, and result in the loss of $8 million in annual payroll. The mill produces some 200,000 tonnes of newsprint annually, with a value of some $148 million, according to figures released this week by the provincial government.

The two paper machines at the AbitibiBowater newsprint mill in Grand Falls-Windsor will fall silent for good sometime between Feb. 12 and 15, a company official confirmed Thursday, bringing to an end a century of paper-making in Central Newfoundland.

The closure will result in the elimination of roughly 750 direct jobs at the mill, in the woods and at the port in Botwood, and result in the loss of $8 million in annual payroll. The mill produces some 200,000 tonnes of newsprint annually, with a value of some $148 million, according to figures released this week by the provincial government.

The mill will be shuttered six weeks ahead of the late March date initially set by the company because of a shortage of orders for paper and to give sufficient time to secure the facility, says company spokesman Jean-Philippe Cote.

The roughly 450 mill employees will stay on the job to assist with the shutdown, Cote noted. The company began notifying employees and the union Wednesday. The company also closed its woods division this week, which employed 230 permanent and seasonal employees.

On the legal front, the company is moving forward with its plans to challenge the provincial government over legislation passed in December which expropriated AbitibiBowater of its hydro-generating assets and repatriated water and timber rights back to the Crown. The mill was not included in the legislation.

Notice file

The U.S.-based company is preparing to file a "notice of intent" under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Cote explained. He said the notice, which is a first step in the process of filing a claim under NAFTA, will be filed "soon." Cote confirmed that there is ongoing dialogue between the province and the company on the issue.

The debt-strapped company announced in early December it would close its Grand Falls-Windsor mill after the union twice rejected restructuring plans because of what it called excessive layoffs, a weakening of union rights, and a refusal by the company to invest in the mill. The company had described the mill as one of the highest cost operations of its kind in North America, despite the fact it produced its own hydro-electricity on the Exploits River.

The province's response to the company's plan drew international headlines, with the company calling the expropriation illegal and describing the action as an "entirely unfounded and unscrupulous attack" on the company. The province said it will compensate the company for its hydro assets, but no amount has been disclosed.

Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale would not comment on questions related to the expropriation when contacted this week.

But she said the province has received proposals from companies interested in utilizing the forest resource.

"We're having a look at those proposals to see which ones make the best sense for the people of the region," she said.

She said Nalcor, the province's energy corporation, will take over the company's assets (excluding the mill) at the end of March. The corporation is actively recruiting employees to run the hydro stations and related operations.

Rick Fudge, head of the union local representing forestry workers, said workers were expecting to lose their jobs and can now concentrate on life after the mill.

Just under 100 of the woods workers who were scheduled to work this winter will continue to receive a regular paycheque until the end of March. But unlike those who work at the mill, there's no provision for severance pay for woods workers.

The union has requested the company pay severance, like it has done in similar situations across Canada. But Fudge has been told the company, which has been fighting off bankruptcy, will only meet its obligations under the collective agreement.

Cote said he would not comment on the issue of severance.

Fudge is concerned the decision to expropriate the company's assets is a factor, and is calling on both sides to settle their differences. He estimates the cost of severance for woods workers at between $4 million and $5 million.

Fudge also wants the federal government to consider some form of financial assistance for veteran woods workers who are being thrown out of work without any severance, and only a meagre pension. "I'm hoping they're going to do something that can directly impact workers," he said.

A special ministerial task force established last year by the provincial government is continuing with efforts to assist workers and explore ways to diversify the area's economy, Dunderdale said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: AbitibiBowater, NAFTA

Geographic location: Abitibi, Grand Falls-Windsor, Central Newfoundland Botwood U.S. North America Exploits River Canada

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Recent comments

  • Bert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    This will be a very big loss to the people of Central NL, but I predict that within 2 years the loss will be overcome with new developement and the people will prevail. When the end comes to the mill the area will change their path and carve out bigger and better ventures.
    If you put this into perspective the 8 million dollar lost in payroll is equivalent to two years salary for Michael Ryder. Surely that can be made up.

  • Robert B
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Get over it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The mill is now a piece of our history.

    The real question is what is our town fathers going to do now.

    Not a word about cutting back in town management. Why you ask?

    The answer is that the management of the town are looking out to their own jobs.

    They are not making any plans to show the taxpayers that now we need to trim the fat. They are looking out to themselves and no one is accountable.

    In this day and age with cut backs happening all over the globe, this town has no intention of making any cuts.

    I don't mean in services but in top management.

    Who makes that call? Where do our elected council stand?

    Again I beg the press, ie TELEGRAM, to question and look into the operation of this town. What a story they could dig up under the freedom of information act.

    Too many perks for a town this size. Just look at the last five years and you will find enough to make your hair stand on end.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    The union is not to blame for this mess that the town of GFW and surrounding towns will soon find themselves in. Abitibi had absolutely no intention of keeping this mill open, they just wanted to save a few more $'s in their own pocket before shutting it down. As for the loggers, they had as many opportunities to negotiate a severence package as the other unions, they chose to go for other things ...i.e. being paid to drive to work; being paid board & lodging; getting their gas paid for; getting paid mileage, etc. etc. They had the same opportunities as all other union members, they chose not to take them. I am sorely disappointed with our premiere and his government though, disappointed, but not surprised after the Stephenville fiasco. This government just does not seem to realize the enormity of this situation, not just for mill workers, but for others as well. Perhaps if forestry workers were fisherpeople, or lived east of the infamous overpass, this terrible situation would get more attention. But, alas, we will never know. It's almost eerie how quiet this all has been. Eerie indeed. Central Newfoundland will once again become prosperous and it will be with no thanks to the government. It will be down to the good people of that area.

  • gary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Bert;
    You blame the wrong person!!! Blame it on the union and workers that WOULD not budge. My say would be the union...The company told you all that the mill was in trouble. But no one would take them seriously. If both sides would make consessions there MAY be still work in GFW. I would take no raise or cut back so I would at least have a job. Now they have nothing!!!

  • Charlie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Bones my boy why dont you tell all of us what your idol Danny has done to help in all of this mess. Then again you are still so far up his a s s you cant see whats really going on anyway. The man is a bully a dictator and is the cause of all thats wrong between Ottawa and this province. Why is it you refuse to see that Bones? I cant speak for Bert or anyone else but as far as I am concearned Danny is all about talk distraction and illusion. He will do anything to deflect attention away from the fact that he is doing NOTHING to deal with the real issues here at home. Dictate and Legislate thats what Danny does best. Power hunger ego driven replica of Castro. Bones you sir are sickening in the way you constantly jump to Williams defence. Is this your job? I hope he pays you well. Oh yes wasnt it Williams who made threath against Abitibi in Stephenville also just like he did in Grand Falls? The school yard bully lives on thanks to people like you Bert. Your live must be a sad one Bones as many others have suggested on here. You are consumed with your cult like Danny worship. So now be a good little boy and go drink the cool aid Danny has lovingly prepared for you. Cheers.

  • Bones
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Bert: Huh? Wasn't it Abitibi that closed the mill? Weren't the problems between the union and the ownership? I do not understand the role Williams plays in your accusation. Expropriation was not announced until after the union and the company's hands were played. I think your anger is a little misdirected.
    Would you have preferred the company keep those energy assets?
    Please explain?

  • Bert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Great job Danny. Who will you p i s s off next you vengefull ego driven fool?

  • Bert
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I am also from GFW, but thank God no relation to the filthy mouth Bert who claims he is from GFW which I doubt
    I Think that some people want to blame last night's snowfall on Danny.C'mon Bert from GFW give your head a shake and wake-up.

  • patrick
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    abitibi intends to stop producing paper early, i wonder how much they will profit in hydro generating sales during this time, surely enough to give loggers a severance package, then again, shoulden Nalcor be in controll of hydro production seeing that abitibi are not actually producing paper as of Feb. 12 or 15th. Something to think about loggers!

  • Bert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    This will be a very big loss to the people of Central NL, but I predict that within 2 years the loss will be overcome with new developement and the people will prevail. When the end comes to the mill the area will change their path and carve out bigger and better ventures.
    If you put this into perspective the 8 million dollar lost in payroll is equivalent to two years salary for Michael Ryder. Surely that can be made up.

  • Robert B
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    Get over it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The mill is now a piece of our history.

    The real question is what is our town fathers going to do now.

    Not a word about cutting back in town management. Why you ask?

    The answer is that the management of the town are looking out to their own jobs.

    They are not making any plans to show the taxpayers that now we need to trim the fat. They are looking out to themselves and no one is accountable.

    In this day and age with cut backs happening all over the globe, this town has no intention of making any cuts.

    I don't mean in services but in top management.

    Who makes that call? Where do our elected council stand?

    Again I beg the press, ie TELEGRAM, to question and look into the operation of this town. What a story they could dig up under the freedom of information act.

    Too many perks for a town this size. Just look at the last five years and you will find enough to make your hair stand on end.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    The union is not to blame for this mess that the town of GFW and surrounding towns will soon find themselves in. Abitibi had absolutely no intention of keeping this mill open, they just wanted to save a few more $'s in their own pocket before shutting it down. As for the loggers, they had as many opportunities to negotiate a severence package as the other unions, they chose to go for other things ...i.e. being paid to drive to work; being paid board & lodging; getting their gas paid for; getting paid mileage, etc. etc. They had the same opportunities as all other union members, they chose not to take them. I am sorely disappointed with our premiere and his government though, disappointed, but not surprised after the Stephenville fiasco. This government just does not seem to realize the enormity of this situation, not just for mill workers, but for others as well. Perhaps if forestry workers were fisherpeople, or lived east of the infamous overpass, this terrible situation would get more attention. But, alas, we will never know. It's almost eerie how quiet this all has been. Eerie indeed. Central Newfoundland will once again become prosperous and it will be with no thanks to the government. It will be down to the good people of that area.

  • gary
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Bert;
    You blame the wrong person!!! Blame it on the union and workers that WOULD not budge. My say would be the union...The company told you all that the mill was in trouble. But no one would take them seriously. If both sides would make consessions there MAY be still work in GFW. I would take no raise or cut back so I would at least have a job. Now they have nothing!!!

  • Charlie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    Bones my boy why dont you tell all of us what your idol Danny has done to help in all of this mess. Then again you are still so far up his a s s you cant see whats really going on anyway. The man is a bully a dictator and is the cause of all thats wrong between Ottawa and this province. Why is it you refuse to see that Bones? I cant speak for Bert or anyone else but as far as I am concearned Danny is all about talk distraction and illusion. He will do anything to deflect attention away from the fact that he is doing NOTHING to deal with the real issues here at home. Dictate and Legislate thats what Danny does best. Power hunger ego driven replica of Castro. Bones you sir are sickening in the way you constantly jump to Williams defence. Is this your job? I hope he pays you well. Oh yes wasnt it Williams who made threath against Abitibi in Stephenville also just like he did in Grand Falls? The school yard bully lives on thanks to people like you Bert. Your live must be a sad one Bones as many others have suggested on here. You are consumed with your cult like Danny worship. So now be a good little boy and go drink the cool aid Danny has lovingly prepared for you. Cheers.

  • Bones
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Bert: Huh? Wasn't it Abitibi that closed the mill? Weren't the problems between the union and the ownership? I do not understand the role Williams plays in your accusation. Expropriation was not announced until after the union and the company's hands were played. I think your anger is a little misdirected.
    Would you have preferred the company keep those energy assets?
    Please explain?

  • Bert
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    Great job Danny. Who will you p i s s off next you vengefull ego driven fool?

  • Bert
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    I am also from GFW, but thank God no relation to the filthy mouth Bert who claims he is from GFW which I doubt
    I Think that some people want to blame last night's snowfall on Danny.C'mon Bert from GFW give your head a shake and wake-up.

  • patrick
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    abitibi intends to stop producing paper early, i wonder how much they will profit in hydro generating sales during this time, surely enough to give loggers a severance package, then again, shoulden Nalcor be in controll of hydro production seeing that abitibi are not actually producing paper as of Feb. 12 or 15th. Something to think about loggers!