Premier Kathy Dunderdale issued the following statement today regarding the ongoing situation at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper:
"I remain extremely concerned about the future of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. I understand the company and the unions have left negotiations, having accomplished as much as they feel was possible, with Kruger’s final proposal now being presented for a vote," wrote Dunderdale.
"As I’ve indicated before, our government has been very supportive of the mill and its workers and that support will continue once the matters of pensions and labour agreements are resolved and a long-term sustainability plan is in place.
"I strongly encourage both the company and the unions to continue to work through these matters. We all have the same goal here – that Corner Brook Pulp and Paper remain a key employer and driver of economic growth for the western region and our province."
Kruger Industrial says the future of the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill is now in the hands of its employees.
Kruger issues a release Saturday stating that its deadline for a deal with the union has been extended until June 22 to allow members to vote on its final offer.
The company states its offer, given Friday night, is based on that of its direct competitor.
CORNER BROOK After a week of negotiations, including a final day of constant back-and-forth meetings, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper walked away from negotiations with its unions about 25 minutes before an imposed deadline to reach a deal Friday night.
The three negotiators from Kruger Inc. and a government conciliator left the negotiating room at the Glynmill Inn without making any comment on how things had gone.
About 10 minutes before midnight, the representatives from the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions at the mill emerged, leaving national representative Gary Healey to read a prepared statement on their behalf.
“The company has withdrawn from negotiations,” said Healey. “The company has presented us with an offer and the union will now arrange meetings with our membership to explain the offer and conduct a vote.”
Healey was asked to comment on whether or not the unions would be recommending the offer left with them and if the company gave any timeline for when it wanted an answer from the workers. Healey would not elaborate on anything, saying the prepared statement was all he was going to be saying.
He would not say when the vote would be taking place or when the unions would be calling their respective members for meetings to explain what was on the table for them to consider.
The unions at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper have been without a new collective agreement for three years. The latest trend in the troubled newsprint industry, which has seen mills downsized and closed as lately as Friday, has been for unions to accept concessions on wages and other issues.
Kruger has said it wanted a new collective agreement by Friday night or the future of the mill would be uncertain.
It also wants the unions to grant the company a five-year extension to repay the unfunded portion of their pension plan.
The unions rejected the company’s pension request last month.
Around mid-afternoon Friday, the union representing millwrights and skilled trades workers gave their final counter-proposal to the company and left the hotel. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers anticipated hearing back from the company later in the evening.
Ross Edison, president of IAMAW Local 1567, said they had bargained as fairly as possible with the company.
"We have offered up concessions with the company," he said. "We'll just see where we end up. At the end of the day, it will be up to the union membership to decide on a proposal from the company."
Rick Arsenault, the IAMAW's special representative, said his union came "a long way" since negotiations began, but there is only so much the skilled trades workers were willing to give.
"The group I represent are certified tradesmen and there is a great demand in North America for tradesmen, so this group needs to be taken care of ... to keep this mill going," he said. "If they want to compete with tradesmen in North America, we gave them a fair offer to do that."