Abitibi loses one court challenge

Rob Antle
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Province shouldn't pay company until all issues settled: NDP

Rural Development Minister Shawn Skinner says while the province will hold back a cheque to AbitibiBowater over severance for workers, it's too early to say if it will do the same when it comes to other pension-related issues.

Last week, Premier Danny Williams told the House of Assembly that Abitibi would not be paid for the water and timber rights the province expropriated in the fall until a formal agreement on severance was reached.

Rural Development Minister Shawn Skinner says while the province will hold back a cheque to AbitibiBowater over severance for workers, it's too early to say if it will do the same when it comes to other pension-related issues.

Last week, Premier Danny Williams told the House of Assembly that Abitibi would not be paid for the water and timber rights the province expropriated in the fall until a formal agreement on severance was reached.

In the House Monday, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael asked Skinner if the province would also withhold the money over retirement allowances and the workforce reduction program.

"The court process and all the other processes that are in place need to be followed and we need to see what the outcome of those court decisions will be before government decides whether or not any involvement is required by government," replied Skinner.

Abitibi is currently under creditor protection in the United States and Canada.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers' (CEP) union was in court in Quebec Monday and won a decision which forces the company to pay workers who opted for early retirement.

But Skinner told reporters outside the House the decision may not affect former Abitibi workers here.

"I'm making an assumption here, but I'm going to say it doesn't affect any of the people in our province because none of those people are still working with AbitibiBowater," he said.

National CEP president Dave Coles told The Telegram some people in the province may, indeed, be affected by the ruling. However, he agreed the main issues facing former workers in this province are still before the courts.

According to Coles, CEP will soon go to court to seek redress for workers who didn't receive severance pay.

"When a company negotiates with you the closure of a mill, and then files a few days or weeks later saying they don't want to pay it, that's a huge blow to the workers," he said. "First they lost their jobs, and now they're denied their severance. So, besides it being a legal issue, it's a damn moral issue as well. It's just totally not acceptable."

Meanwhile, Skinner said the province decided to hold back money from the company over severance because severance was negotiated as part of the company's collective agreement with CEP.

He said the issues of retirement allowances and the workforce reduction program were special arrangements that fall outside that agreement.

Skinner said Monday's decision leaves him cautiously optimistic the court may side with the union over the other issues. But, he said, each one will have to be argued on its own merit.

"I wouldn't see (Monday's decision) as a precedent. I wouldn't want people to think that because we got one, we may get two and three. They will be separate and distinct decisions," he said.

Skinner said the two outstanding issues affect 153 people in this province, including 44 retirees or their widows.

Michael told reporters those people are feeling the financial pinch of the company's decision to try to quash the agreements.

"For me, an agreement is an agreement, whether it was an agreement that was hammered out as part of a collective agreement or an agreement outside of that," she said. "This is a very creative government and it has a premier who has a very reputable law background and I'm positive that they can come up with a way in which to deal with this."

Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones said she expects the province to step in and do more to help workers because of the expropriation.

"I think the responsibility rests clearly on their shoulders right now to look at how they mitigate the financial burden and impact that these people will have to suffer over the next few months," she said, adding courts can take more than a year to make decisions, which could see some former workers declare bankruptcy or lose their homes.

dbartlett@thetelegram.com rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: AbitibiBowater, National CEP

Geographic location: Abitibi, United States, Canada Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Ed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    AlbitibiBowater retirees beware,as far I'm concerned Canada's bankruptcy act (CCAA) Companies Creditors Arrangement Act is legalized theft and needs to be changed, CAW Local 222 retiree, Oshawa.

  • July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    'Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones said she expects the province to step in and do more to help workers because of the expropriation.' - Because of the expropriation ? BECAUSE of the expropriation ?! No, no, no Yvonne Jones, your nose looks awfully brown right now. It is BECAUSE of AB shutting the plant (due to workers voting themselves out of a job). Get your chronology correct.


    'I think the responsibility rests clearly on their shoulders right now to look at how they mitigate the financial burden and impact that these people will have to suffer over the next few months' - Yup, that's called social assistance or 'personal nest egg' or 'rainy day savings'. Social assistance is what all NLers are entitled to should they have not had the foresight to protect themselves.

    NO BAILOUTS - else give everyone in NL who loses their job a bailout as well. Let's play fair and treat everyone equally across the board.

  • MICHAEL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    WRITES FROM NOWHERE;YOUR STILL UNABLE TO GRASP WHATS GOING ON HERE?, LET ME HELP YA.
    AB MADE A HEALTHY PROFIT FROM THE HYDRO FACILITY THEY OWNED /OPERATED WHILE THE MILL WAS STILL IN OPERATION. DANNY EXPROPRIATED THAT FROM THEM SHORTLY BEFORE THEY WENT TO BANKRUPTCY. WHAT A MOVE!! NOW THE PEOPLE OF THE PROVINCE WILL REAP THE PROFITS FROM THE HYDRO FACILITY FOR EVER AND EVER AMEN.
    DANNY HAS SAID HE WILL COMPENSATE AB FOR THE HYDRO, MINUS WHAT THEY OWE THE WORKERS. THE WORKERS WILL GET THEIR MONEY, AB GETS WHAT'S LEFTOVER. OR WOULD YOU RATHER SEE THE AB A$$HOLES AS YOU MENTIONED GET THE WORKS. GET IT NOW????

  • Bradley
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    As usual Danny Motor Mouth Castro talks out of both sides of his mouth and says nothing. A B C D

  • July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    MICHAEL from NL I think you misinterpreted my comments. AB are complete a$$holes and I really dislike they way they've conducted themselves and the way they've treated their ex-workers. It's deplorable. I bash AB every chance I get, if you haven't noticed. They're a bunch of thieving, coniving crooks if you ask me. So I have no idea what you are getting on about. But I don't think gov't needs to bail anyone out. And what I have said above, is that, if they DO bail them, they had better be prepared to bail EVERYONE out who has lost their job in this province. I am asking that gov't treats everyone fairly and does not give the former AB workers something they won't give the rest of us NLers. Besides, social assistance programs are in place to help people caught between a rock and a hard place. If we are going to just start bailing people out, then let's scrap the social assistance programs and then just bail people out. Treat everyone equally. You don't agree with that ? Or do you want special favours ? I take it you're one of those workers.

  • MICHAEL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    IF YOU HAD TO HAVE YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT WRITES , TO ENTER A COMMENT ON THIS SITE, YOURS WOULD NOT APPEAR. YOUR IGNORANCE OF THIS SITUATION IS INCREDIBLE, IN THIS DAY AND AGE, THE FACTS ARE RIGHT IN FRONT YA, READ EM.

    ABITIBIBOWATER GIVES THEIR RETIRING BOARD CHAIR A 7.5 MILLION DOLLAR BONUS AND THREE WEEKS LATER, STEAL THE $350.00 A MONTH FROM THE 83 YEAR OLD WIDOW.

    ONLY THE TRULY MISINFORMED COULD SUPPORT AB ON THIS ONE.

    YOU SURE WRITES YOUR NOT ON THE BOARD, WITH THE REST OF THE LOW LIFE?

    DANNY WILL DO WHATS RIGHT, MARK IT DOWN!!!

  • Ed
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    AlbitibiBowater retirees beware,as far I'm concerned Canada's bankruptcy act (CCAA) Companies Creditors Arrangement Act is legalized theft and needs to be changed, CAW Local 222 retiree, Oshawa.

  • July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    'Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones said she expects the province to step in and do more to help workers because of the expropriation.' - Because of the expropriation ? BECAUSE of the expropriation ?! No, no, no Yvonne Jones, your nose looks awfully brown right now. It is BECAUSE of AB shutting the plant (due to workers voting themselves out of a job). Get your chronology correct.


    'I think the responsibility rests clearly on their shoulders right now to look at how they mitigate the financial burden and impact that these people will have to suffer over the next few months' - Yup, that's called social assistance or 'personal nest egg' or 'rainy day savings'. Social assistance is what all NLers are entitled to should they have not had the foresight to protect themselves.

    NO BAILOUTS - else give everyone in NL who loses their job a bailout as well. Let's play fair and treat everyone equally across the board.

  • MICHAEL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    WRITES FROM NOWHERE;YOUR STILL UNABLE TO GRASP WHATS GOING ON HERE?, LET ME HELP YA.
    AB MADE A HEALTHY PROFIT FROM THE HYDRO FACILITY THEY OWNED /OPERATED WHILE THE MILL WAS STILL IN OPERATION. DANNY EXPROPRIATED THAT FROM THEM SHORTLY BEFORE THEY WENT TO BANKRUPTCY. WHAT A MOVE!! NOW THE PEOPLE OF THE PROVINCE WILL REAP THE PROFITS FROM THE HYDRO FACILITY FOR EVER AND EVER AMEN.
    DANNY HAS SAID HE WILL COMPENSATE AB FOR THE HYDRO, MINUS WHAT THEY OWE THE WORKERS. THE WORKERS WILL GET THEIR MONEY, AB GETS WHAT'S LEFTOVER. OR WOULD YOU RATHER SEE THE AB A$$HOLES AS YOU MENTIONED GET THE WORKS. GET IT NOW????

  • Bradley
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    As usual Danny Motor Mouth Castro talks out of both sides of his mouth and says nothing. A B C D

  • July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    MICHAEL from NL I think you misinterpreted my comments. AB are complete a$$holes and I really dislike they way they've conducted themselves and the way they've treated their ex-workers. It's deplorable. I bash AB every chance I get, if you haven't noticed. They're a bunch of thieving, coniving crooks if you ask me. So I have no idea what you are getting on about. But I don't think gov't needs to bail anyone out. And what I have said above, is that, if they DO bail them, they had better be prepared to bail EVERYONE out who has lost their job in this province. I am asking that gov't treats everyone fairly and does not give the former AB workers something they won't give the rest of us NLers. Besides, social assistance programs are in place to help people caught between a rock and a hard place. If we are going to just start bailing people out, then let's scrap the social assistance programs and then just bail people out. Treat everyone equally. You don't agree with that ? Or do you want special favours ? I take it you're one of those workers.

  • MICHAEL
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    IF YOU HAD TO HAVE YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT WRITES , TO ENTER A COMMENT ON THIS SITE, YOURS WOULD NOT APPEAR. YOUR IGNORANCE OF THIS SITUATION IS INCREDIBLE, IN THIS DAY AND AGE, THE FACTS ARE RIGHT IN FRONT YA, READ EM.

    ABITIBIBOWATER GIVES THEIR RETIRING BOARD CHAIR A 7.5 MILLION DOLLAR BONUS AND THREE WEEKS LATER, STEAL THE $350.00 A MONTH FROM THE 83 YEAR OLD WIDOW.

    ONLY THE TRULY MISINFORMED COULD SUPPORT AB ON THIS ONE.

    YOU SURE WRITES YOUR NOT ON THE BOARD, WITH THE REST OF THE LOW LIFE?

    DANNY WILL DO WHATS RIGHT, MARK IT DOWN!!!