More uncertainty for former mill workers

Moira Baird & Terry Roberts
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

AbitibiBowater filing leaves severance cheques in limbo

Pete Sullivan, a former Grand Falls-Windsor mill worker, was expecting a severance cheque Thursday.

Instead, he got the news that AbitibiBowater is filing for creditor protection - leaving Sullivan and about 450 other former mill workers in limbo, again.

"Right now, to us, it's still another waiting game," he said. "Nobody, nobody has their severance."

He has plenty of questions and few answers about the next round of uncertainty.

Pete Sullivan, a former Grand Falls-Windsor mill worker, was expecting a severance cheque Thursday.

Instead, he got the news that AbitibiBowater is filing for creditor protection - leaving Sullivan and about 450 other former mill workers in limbo, again.

"Right now, to us, it's still another waiting game," he said. "Nobody, nobody has their severance."

He has plenty of questions and few answers about the next round of uncertainty.

"Does that mean that our severance money is gone?"

Based on his 31 years of work at the mill and his card rate, Sullivan is owed about $51,000 in severance. And he knows people who are owed double that amount after 40 years at the mill.

Many in central Newfoundland wonder if they'll ever see their money.

Colin Rowsell, who worked 32 years at the mill before its closure last month, is one of them.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed and hoping somewhere down the road this gets resolved and the company pays its employees what they're due," said Rowsell, who is relocating to Alberta in the coming weeks.

He said former employees were counting on their severance to help them make the transition to life after the mill.

"All this is out of our hands," Rowsell said. "We can really only sit back and hope for the best."

AbitibiBowater isn't saying when the mill workers can expect severance payments as the company sets out to restructure under creditor protection.

"You can appreciate that bankruptcy protection filing is a complex mechanism and those payments will have to be addressed together with a number of other issues," said Jean Phillipe Cote, spokesman for AbitibiBowater.

"We'll need to gather with all the pertinent stakeholders and come up with a restructuring plan for the next few months ... those processes are quite complex.

"But we're committed to keeping all stakeholders informed as to the next steps."

Innovation Minister Shawn Skinner says the provincial government expects AbitibiBowater to live up to its financial obligations.

"Government very strongly feels that the severance owed to the employees should be paid," he said. "We will certainly be making that point to AbitibiBowater."

"I think it's important that we allow the processes that are defined to unfold as they should unfold. ... It would be unrealistic, from my perspective, for AbitibiBowater to expect that they could absolve themselves of that obligation."

While pension funds are secured funds, Skinner says severance payments are not.

"At this point in time, the company isn't in bankruptcy, the company is looking for creditor protection.

"This has been done before by many other companies ... who have come out of it through creditor protection assisted by the courts, and I hope Abitibi are able to do it in this case."

Skinner says he is prepared to meet with the former mill workers, but he has little information to provide them.

"I don't have a lot of answers. This is not something that I'm in control of anymore than the employees are in control of.

"I'd prefer to wait until I have an opportunity to go out and give them something tangible and something more concrete."

Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy says severance could play a role in the province's talks with AbitibiBowater over the expropriation of its timber resources, water-use rights and hydro generation assets last year.

"As the negotiations go on, in terms of what price we will pay for those assets, severance could become an issue at that point."

The Communications Energy and Paperworkers, the mill workers' union, says it has been preparing for the day AbitibiBowater might file for creditor protection.

"Their national union has already been working in anticipation that this could happen, and making sure that we're represented ... to make sure we get our piece of what's left," said Ervan Cronk, CEP's Atlantic region vice-president.

"We're going to be aiming to get every penny of it."

He says the CEP's lawyers are working on getting answers for the former mill workers.

"What they can expect, and should expect, is that we'll fight like hell to make sure that they get everything that's owed to them."

Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones said it's time the government publicly say whether it has a plan to help workers should their benefits packages be affected.

"The company has stated that they will not be paying out severance payments, and if this is the case, government must step forward to fill this void for the workers. Government now owns the resources, will make the profits and former workers cannot be forgotten," she said in a statement.

"The silence of government on these issues is no longer acceptable and workers deserve to hear what concrete action, if any, will be taken to protect them and their financial livelihoods."

mbaird@thetelegram.com troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: AbitibiBowater, Communications Energy

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Alberta, Abitibi Atlantic

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Dave
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Will the Government of Newfoundland assist every worker in the province who is laid-off now and in the future?

    Talk is cheap. Will politicians like Scott Simms- $140,000 a year salary - take money out of their own pockets to help the mill workers?

  • b
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I believe that it is the paperworkers union which should be assisting the former mill workers. The workers have been paying dues to the union since their first day on the job, therefore let the union with it's deep pockets assist the layed off workers.

  • randy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Do you think -nasty nate,,if this was a non-union shop the company would still be there??Wake -up by . It was wages or decent benefits being paid to thw work force,that drove this company under.It was mismanagement and corporate greed,,but i guess you like the trickle down economics of Regan or Bush .Maybe nate you would fit into the sweat-shop mentality of the 30's

  • Nasty
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Looks like the Union way is the way to have it all taken from the workers. If these so-called BROTHERS were just that why is it that the Union is not offering to payout those that paid in for generations?

    Time to form a Non-Union workforce. Unions use threats to make you pay them the big bucks, but when it comes time for the Unions to put up all you read of are the corruption cases in our court system. Now why is that if they are such an upstanding organization?

    Unions have misled people for generations. Have caused the loss of more jobs and business then they create, are known to be involved in organized criminal activities the list goes on. We need to have our anti-gang legislation used to expose these crooks for what they really are. They are no better then the bikers or the mob.

  • v
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    I feel bad for the mill workers in GFW not getting their severance payments but I want to point out that there were workers from Abitibi that weren't getting any severance payments anyway. I am not talking about the loggers but the mechanics that worked outside of the mill. The men in the same profession working with the same company not geting the same severance...not getting any severance. At least now the mill workers may know how the other workers feel. I hope the government does step in but looks at all the workers not just the ones who worked in the mill, but the ones that had to work away and either stay in the camps or drive back and forth and the ones who had to work in the heat and the freezing cold. All the mechanics who have the same trade but are tied into a different union and thus not considered in the same way.

  • Akbar
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Nasty Nate - 'than' not 'then', haven't you learned YET ?

  • Dave
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Will the Government of Newfoundland assist every worker in the province who is laid-off now and in the future?

    Talk is cheap. Will politicians like Scott Simms- $140,000 a year salary - take money out of their own pockets to help the mill workers?

  • b
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    I believe that it is the paperworkers union which should be assisting the former mill workers. The workers have been paying dues to the union since their first day on the job, therefore let the union with it's deep pockets assist the layed off workers.

  • randy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Do you think -nasty nate,,if this was a non-union shop the company would still be there??Wake -up by . It was wages or decent benefits being paid to thw work force,that drove this company under.It was mismanagement and corporate greed,,but i guess you like the trickle down economics of Regan or Bush .Maybe nate you would fit into the sweat-shop mentality of the 30's

  • Nasty
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Looks like the Union way is the way to have it all taken from the workers. If these so-called BROTHERS were just that why is it that the Union is not offering to payout those that paid in for generations?

    Time to form a Non-Union workforce. Unions use threats to make you pay them the big bucks, but when it comes time for the Unions to put up all you read of are the corruption cases in our court system. Now why is that if they are such an upstanding organization?

    Unions have misled people for generations. Have caused the loss of more jobs and business then they create, are known to be involved in organized criminal activities the list goes on. We need to have our anti-gang legislation used to expose these crooks for what they really are. They are no better then the bikers or the mob.

  • v
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    I feel bad for the mill workers in GFW not getting their severance payments but I want to point out that there were workers from Abitibi that weren't getting any severance payments anyway. I am not talking about the loggers but the mechanics that worked outside of the mill. The men in the same profession working with the same company not geting the same severance...not getting any severance. At least now the mill workers may know how the other workers feel. I hope the government does step in but looks at all the workers not just the ones who worked in the mill, but the ones that had to work away and either stay in the camps or drive back and forth and the ones who had to work in the heat and the freezing cold. All the mechanics who have the same trade but are tied into a different union and thus not considered in the same way.

  • Akbar
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Nasty Nate - 'than' not 'then', haven't you learned YET ?