Mill workers lose trust despite reassurances
Bruce Randell, president of Local 242 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworks union, speaks to reporters prior to a meeting at Club 64 Monday afternoon. — Photo by Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
“Even kids know when it is wrong to hold out on somebody.”
That is the quote Bruce Randell, president of Local 242 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union, used Monday to describe how mill workers were feeling about the latest transgression to come from the eight-week process of determining whether to grant Kruger a five-year extension to make up a deficit in pension plans.
Randell was referencing a banking commercial where a market researcher asks a little girl if she wants a pony, before handing over a toy. He then gives the other girl a real pony. When questioned by the first girl why she wasn’t offered the real one, he says she didn’t ask.
Well, the union president said they have been asking, but Kruger was still holding out.
Two meetings were called Monday after union personnel discovered a detail of the negotiated proposal that would change the benefit formula used by the company. At risk is a reduction in the pensions of current employees by as much as 25 per cent in 2014.
A standing room only crowd of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill workers gathered at Club 64 in Corner Brook Monday afternoon. The large crowd filed out of the small building on Broadway after approximately an hour.
The union members, who must vote against the proposal by Thursday in order to stop the company’s request for an extension, left the meeting in what appeared to be a disheartened state. For a large group congregating together, there weren’t many smiles or laughs being shared throughout the ongoing conversations.
One worker was overheard saying, Kruger does not tell him how to pay his mortgage, so he should not be telling them how to pay their bills.
Randell said union executives kept hearing excuses when asking the company about maintaining the current formula.
“The membership understand the seriousness of what is going on,” he said. “We, as executives of the local, tried to build up trust with the company and government. How many times do you put yourself out there? That is what the membership is telling us.
“We lost an awful lot of trust, that is what we lost today.”
Despite assurances from Kruger and the provincial government that the formula would be maintained, the president said there are skeptics within the membership.
Following the meeting, one worker was overheard saying the company would have definitely received its requested extension prior to this development. Now, he said it will not happen.
“We tried to reassure people we got our pension formula back, but there is so much mistrust in the hall, a lot of people said they were going to pass in there slips as a no vote regardless,” Randell said.
“Personally, I think they would have gotten their five-year extension for the payment plan. I think it was done. If everybody would have been straight forward and upfront, they would have got it.”