Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.— File photo by The Western Star
A local economist says Corner Brook has to mobilize now, prepare for its future, and not wait until its mill shuts down.
Gabriela Sabau, an economics professor at Grenfell Campus of Memorial University, said the industry this city was primarily built on will end. She said the 46 job losses announced this week, with indications of more job losses to come, is a phasing out of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper by Kruger.
"I saw this coming," Sabau said. "I think it is just the beginning, and I think it is going to end with the mill closing down. It is a good thing they are phasing it out like this, and they didn't just shut it all down at once and have 600 people without jobs."
There were approximately 440-450 positions directly inside Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, according to a union representative. Prior to the recent job cuts, 385 of those were unionized.
Although Sabau said she previously encouraged mill representatives to diversify its operation, she does not place all the blame on Kruger. She said the pulp and paper industry worldwide is in trouble because of the tension between the lessening demand and the escalating cost of supply.
However, after reading the newsrelease issued by Kruger pertaining to the job cuts, she concluded the company wants to slowly rid itself of the Corner Brook mill.
"This is nonsense, because they don't say how they want to reduce the labour costs," she said. "You don't just reduce the labour costs by firing people. They should have in place something else to do with these people, not just reduce labour costs like this."
While doubting the cost-saving impacts of job reductions for the company, Sabau said the loss of 46 positions from the local economy will certainly have a negative effect - as will the constant threat of further job losses.
"The best thing to solve this problem is to provide for these people, not just a severance package or some money for getting laid off, but give them some ideas or perspectives of what they can do," she said.
The economist suggested training programs for the younger workers and providing business opportunities for the older workers.
It can all be a part of the diversification of the city, according to Sabau, but there must be a common vision developed of where Corner Brook's future is. Right now it is thriving on a dying pulp and paper industry, she said, and two main service industries - health care and education.
She said Corner Brook must attract business and major industrial or manufacturing industries. In preparation for the time she says the mill will close, it is vital the city has a plan in place, possibly even already acting upon it.
"I would love to see some manufacturing being done in this place, because that is what makes an economy really healthy."