There is still a lot of work to be done to shore up the future of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, but Mayor Neville Greeley is glad progress has been made towards that goal.
Greeley said there was a “collective sigh of relief” when word came late Friday night that four of five mill unions represented by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) unions had agreed to accept the new labour contracts offered to them by parent company, Kruger Inc., and word soon thereafter from the company acknowledging the positive vote.
CEP Local 96, which represents electricians in the mill, rejected the contract offer, as did the mill’s other skilled trades union, Lodge 1567 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW). The IAMAW union, which represents welders, millwrights and machinists, had rejected the offer last Wednesday.
“Each hurdle they overcome is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Greeley of the voting results.
Corner Brook’s city council met with Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Finance Minister Tom Marshall, in whose district of Humber East the mill is situated, while Dunderdale was in Corner Brook this past weekend.
“We are quite a bit more optimistic today than we were Wednesday and Thursday of last week. We
understand from the premier that the potential for Corner Brook (Pulp and Paper) well into the future is there if they can get themselves past the next four or five years in the industry,” said Greeley.
The mayor said the unions that accepted the new collective agreements also recognized there is hope and did their part to help.
“It took an awful lot of guts and courage for the unions to put the overall process ahead of their own individual concerns and I commend each and every one of them for doing it,” said Greeley.
In addition to accepting a proposal to take concessions on wages, benefits and pensions, mill employees and the company have also agreed to strike a joint committee with the company that must find at least another four per cent savings in labour costs within three months of the contract ratification.
Gerry Byrne, the Liberal MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, said Kruger now needs to invest its money in retaining the skilled trades workers that have been leaving the operation at an alarming rate in recent times.
“(Joe) Kruger has said the workers need to understand the importance of remaining competitive if his operation is to remain viable,” said Byrne in a prepared statement. “(He) now needs to follow his own advice in settling with the two remaining union locals made up entirely of skilled tradesmen.”
Keith Goulding, president of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, is encouraged the skilled trades unions have indicated they are open to negotiate deals their members can live with.
“Those unions who did turn down their offers have options open to them to work elsewhere, so it wasn’t surprising how they voted,” said Goulding. “There is still a willingness on their behalf to sit down and work out a deal. They don’t want the mill to fail. “
The Western Star