Grim mood follows Kruger’s talk with premier

James McLeod
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‘I’m discouraged and I’m concerned’: Joseph Kruger

Many people in Corner Brook say the city would survive if the pulp and paper mill closed. However, many of those same people are quick to point out the mill has a future. — Transcontinental Media file photo

Joseph Kruger’s tone was bleak as he spoke briefly to the media following a two-hour meeting with Premier Kathy Dunderdale about the future of his mill in Corner Brook.

“I’m very very concerned,” he said. “I’m discouraged and I’m concerned about the future of the mill. It’s going to take the people of Corner Brook to make this happen.”

For months, the future of the province’s only remaining paper mill has been in jeopardy as Kruger Inc. tries to restructure operations at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.

On Monday, Kruger came to St. John’s to meet with Dunderdale.

At the end of the late-afternoon meeting, Dunderdale said she’d come to an understanding with Kruger.

“There’s an arrangement that can take place between us and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper that would be critical to the ongoing operation of the mill,” Dunderdale said.

“I’m not going to discuss any detail of that today other than to say that we’re satisfied with the talks so far.”

She wouldn’t say anything specific about whether the government is willing to put up money or get directly involved. Dunderdale would only say they’ve agreed on “the terms of a framework of support.”

For the moment, though, the government will do nothing.

Before the government steps in directly, she said, the company and the unions in Corner Brook need to come to an understanding and agree on a sustainability plan for the mill.

Action must be taken quickly: Kruger VP

The company also needs to work out a plan to restructure the mill’s pension plan. An attempt to do just that was stymied earlier this year when unionized workers voted against a plan for the company to put off topping up the unfunded pension liability for more than five years.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens in Corner Brook among the negotiations and whether the union and the company are able to put together a sustainable plan for the future, and then of course there’ll have to be a second vote on the pension issue,” Dunderdale said. “It’s not appropriate for us, the government, to be engaged in those issues. There are negotiations that they have before them, and they want to revisit the pension issue again. Both of those things are critical.”

Daniel Archambault, executive vice-president for Kruger, said that all of this needs to happen quickly, or the company will have to close the mill.

“We are as a management group, still assessing the future of the operation, the future viability of that operation,” Archambault said. “We don’t have much time in front of us. We’re evolving in a tough economic environment and a tough market, and we need to be competitive.”

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said she’d like to see the government be more actively involved, especially when it comes to the pension issue.

She said if need be, the government should be willing to put money on the table to help bring about a deal.

“I think when it comes to the pension issue, we’re into something that is quite complicated and I don’t think that should be left between just the company and the workers. I actually think the three parties need to sit together,” she said. “Seriously, sit at the table and figure it out.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Kruger Inc.

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • David
    June 06, 2012 - 13:44

    To all the "Jeffs" out there: If my opinion offends you, don't read it. If what I write is stupid, ignore it. But do try to let your mind, or more importantly let someone else, get a bit of use and exercise by at least reading the opinions of others if they so choose. Of all the disdavantages facing Newfoundland, thin-skinned closed-mindedness and the "either you're with us, or you're agin us" mob think is one of the most damning and truly disturbing traits of this place, and will by itself keep this place from ever moving forward with the rest of the enlightened, civilized world. Think for yourself.

    • Jeff
      June 07, 2012 - 05:02

      First of all i realized afterwards that i had confused you with another anti-Mill, anti-Newfoundlander so i apologize. My previous post had points about that other person and not yourself. However i don't see how much of a difference it makes when your end message is the same. You don't trust unions. Fine. You want this mill to close for some ungodly reason. Fine. You appear to have no respect for this province and its people, and part of me even understands that. There is a sense of unwarranted entitlement here like i have never seen. However, i have a conscience and i do think for myself. I am able to see past the corporate baloney and i don't want to see people and families suffer. If you had been paying attention, you would know that the unions were ready to agree to the sustainability plan until they found that loophole created by the NL Government. Do i think the unions should accept the deal, yes absolutely! However i don't think they should have to sacrifice every thing to get there either. I support the mill workers but only to a point. If it means keeping the mill open and staying employed then they must look at giving the company some concessions. What i don't like are the negative minded "David's" on here who just say to shut it down without realizing the impact it would have on the region. A sudden shut of the mill would be devastating, but I do think it's an inevitability so the town and the region should take this lesson to heart and prepare by diversifying economically. I will heed your advice "David" and in the future ignore your posts, because frankly... you aren't worth my time anymore.

  • JJ
    June 06, 2012 - 12:07

    It seems that the only people worried about the mill is the mill workers themselves. Government should not bail out the mill. If she is going to close, let her close. Did the government bail out Lundrigans years ago? No, certainly not. All the employees who worked there years ago had to find other employment...........

  • Jeff
    June 06, 2012 - 07:18

    Folks, David professes to be a ex-pat Newfoundlander who has admitted in a few posts that he wishes the province would just wither way. He doesn't support workers, or workers rights and he claims to own a company - though I have asked for the the name of the company several times only to be ignored. Additionally, if he does own this fictional company, he is probably the worst employer anywhere as he hires temp employees and then replaces them once they are legally entitled to any form of benefit. This person has no idea what the situation is with CBP&P and the unions, and ignores the fact that it is actually the NL Government that made this situation bad by enacting legislation that reduces a pensioners income through surreptitious means. He ignores the fact that the unions are willing to negotiate and were actually in favour of the sustainability plan until they discovered this legal loophole. Anyway folks, David is nothing more then an instigator who thinks he is better then everyone else because he moved away from Newfoundland. You'd be better off ignoring him.

    • David
      June 06, 2012 - 13:21

      Jeff: Thanks for the intro. Some key untruths and a coupel of outright lies, but entertaining -- just like most Newfoundlanders! You write your own material? If not, you're getting ripped off.

  • Let it Go Already
    June 05, 2012 - 16:23

    I've had enough. It's a dying industry. The mill is going to close - whether it's tomorrow or next year . I feel bad for the workers, but maybe its time they get what they are entitled to and move on. Giving into Kruger, or using taxpayer money for yet another bailout, is only prolonging the inevitable!

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 21:09

      You're going to die...whether it's tomorrow, or next year or whenever. So please just go ahead and get it over with ---- save some health care for the rest of us. Deal?

  • Sean S
    June 05, 2012 - 15:51

    Given an issue, naysayers will line up to rain on everyone's parade. In my opinion, the Premier could broker a deal here if she wanted to. I noticed that the union wasn't invited to the meeting with Ms. Dunderdale. I guess she doesn't realize that when you're trying to broker a deal between two sides, you need both sides at the meeting.

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 17:23

      Not when the other side is the entire problem, and not when you step into the role of that side to prevent them from screwing it up even more.

  • Joseph McGrath
    June 05, 2012 - 14:12

    Everyone in NL hopes that the Corner Brook mill will stay open employing people in the community.It has been a source of pride and tax revenues for all residents of NL for many years but I think it is finally done if it has to be given financial support by government. Time after time after time Federal and provincial governments have dished out untold millions of dollars to various carpetbaggers from Canada and elsewhere and come up short most of the time. Few endevours , if any, have been successful in the province. Operators pay themselves big salaries and dividends etc. and disappear when the grant money runs out. Politicians and bureaucrats,corporate owners and unions are seduced by the prospect of facilities employing hundreds of people who in the end take full blunt of the business failure and subsequent high unemployment. Unfortunately, those who are in charge of handing out the money are often political cronies and partisans with few qualifications and even less imagination, and with highly inflated egos.Unions too act as if the operation can contiue to operate even if it is spiriling into a deep money pit.I sometimes think that government officials,union leaders and corporate managers are not that interested in making the Corner Brook mill economically independant at all.Consider for a moment that if the sector was thriving a lot of their jobs would hardly be needed.Go Figure!!!

  • Michael Luedee
    June 05, 2012 - 12:55

    Not sure why some are giving the mill employees the gears here. All the benefits and wages were negotiated in a fair and equal process. Joe Kruger is playing a card from his hand and doing a little scare mongering. I don't agree with a gov't bailout either but I am not going to jump all over the mill employees who are looking for a fair wage. It seems some people want to see everyone else working for $10.00 an hour.

    • a business man
      June 05, 2012 - 20:59

      I do not want to see everyone make $10/hour. I beleive that the middle class is the most important thing for a successful economy. however, I don't not believe that the middle class of 2012 and beyond should have a middle class containing blue collar workers. As far as am concerned, the mill workers should not be part of the middle class, and should be paid less than $10//hour. Our middle class should contain white collar/professional workers. Lawyers, Doctors, engineers, accountants, teachers, IT professionals, professors and other people with specialized skills and education. Unskilled uneducated labour who only have their labour to offer an employer are not longer needed for our middle class. The middle class of the future is university educated and not interested in jobs with manual labour. As someone who has a JD/MBA, I can say that simply, the workers of the future want to work with their minds, NOT their hands. So in that vein, the loss of every single blue collar jobs in Canada, as soon as possible, is a step in the right direction. On that note, I hope that this mill closes soon, as these are jobs that I deem too good for the Canadians of 2012. Simply put, I wish better for all Canadians, and the first step in moving forward is shedding jobs like those at the mill. I call it progress.

  • Ed. A.
    June 05, 2012 - 11:07

    david must have been under an awful big rock for the past 25 years if he didn't hear joey kruger complaining and whining every year. even when he was making 100s of millions a year he was still trying to get more from the employees. there is never enough to satisfy people like him.

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 14:43

      Yes...the Joe Krugers of the world just stand in the way of the otherwise ingenious, innovative, independent, resourceful, productive Newfoundlanders. (ooops, I just peed my pants a little...) The ones who drift from one company town to the next (again run by some non-Newfoundland outfit...weird!?) , lunch pail in hand, begging to get on with another unionized shop....where he can start his endless moaning all over agin.

  • Mickey
    June 05, 2012 - 09:44

    Dunderdale and Joe Kruger - Drama Queens. Only the pensioners and workers can save the mill now. It was ineptness of management and market conditions that caused this.

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 13:52

      Yes, it's up to the workers. Joe Kruger is just waiting for them to give the word to allow him to pay them and keep 'their' mill running. You are a true museum specimen of the Newfoundland sub-species.

    • Mike Ross
      June 05, 2012 - 14:13

      David, shouldn't you be spending more time being more productive for your employer and less time on the computer moaning and whining about people moaning and whining?

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 14:35

      Pot, kettle. And no, but thanks for asking.

  • Shawn
    June 05, 2012 - 09:20

    Your wrong Joseph Kruger. It's not the people of Corner Brook that have to make this happen, it is you and your corporation, that must decide if this mill is profitable enough to carry on business. If it's not, it's up to you to make it profitable whatever way you see fit with the law. If that can not be done, it should be your duty to close the mill and let the chips fall where they may. The people of Corner Brook have no say in it whatsoever and anyone that thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.

  • Former Mill Worker
    June 05, 2012 - 08:58

    While I support the mill workers/unions, if the issue here is truely all about pension plans then the unions need to move out of the past into the present. Unfortunately fat pensions are a thing of the past and if you are lucky enough to have retired and am collecting money from your pension then thank the lord!!!! Todays retirement plans are more along the lines of investing pre tax $$ into something like a 401k plan with company matching dollar for dollar up to a certain point. Pensions are eliminated. The union leaders need to come up with alternative solutions here more in line with today's economic environment rather then try to get the Krugar leaders to fold on this issue. As someone who worked with many of the guys at CBPP I support you but you have to put your heads together now and look at the way company's work today, not how they worked when your dad was at the mill.

  • David
    June 05, 2012 - 08:37

    After the explosion, the union movement always gets back up, brushes itself off, buries the dead, and begins to rewrite history. They will claim that the result was yet another example of why unions are so important, and how the 'evil' corporations are the mortal enemy that must be eradicated from the Earth. And people here have never even been tempted to question it, to ask whether there's more to working than moaning and resenting one's regualr, sizeable paycheck. I expect it won't start now, either. Get out the pitchforks.

    • Chantal
      June 05, 2012 - 09:24

      What about you David, are you willing to work for minimum wage to benefit your employer?

    • Lynn
      June 05, 2012 - 10:48

      Well said, David, and incredibly articulate I might add. Your opinion speaks directly to the issue at hand - this is how the real world operates people. it's time to face the inevitable; it's a done deal...and for heaven's sake no corporate bailouts!!!

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 11:08

      I took enough responsibility in my life to do better than that. And, lo and behold, I've done just fine....but thanks for your concern.

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 13:49

      It's always the same rheotric, the same red herrings.....minimum wage, or the classic 'McDonalds', or 'Tim Hortons' lines. Chantal's kind is so quick to slander very good and, I would have thought, welcomed employers because she sees herself as "above" that -- the mantra of entitlement just oozes out. But there is a whole world of options between 'minimum wage' and 'give us more, we deserve it'. Things like developing marketable skills, working for a merit-based raise or promotion, or moving to where even low-skill work is more available and lucrative. Chantal is more of a 'sit-on-my-Rse and whine' kinda person, which makes her fit right in here.

    • Redrover
      June 05, 2012 - 14:27

      Corporate bailouts? So you must be really upset with the Harper Government (tm). Also wondering, did you really take responsibiity for yourself or did you have some help from the "taxpayer" too? What's good enough for you (and Kruger) isn't good enough for others? Hypocrite.

    • Jeff
      June 06, 2012 - 07:25

      This is about what I expected from you. Oh and whether you like it or not, you just paid the unions a compliment because the union will get up, brush itself off, bury the dead (usually the corporations who failed) and continue on. You know... you sound kind of envious of the unions... do you have union envy? Yes I think you do!

  • Jack
    June 05, 2012 - 08:30

    I'm appalled that the Dunderdale Government didn't get Corner Brook Pulp and Paper to come with a plan to diversify the mill's product line away from newsprint as a condition for further aid from taxpayers. If the mill is to survive, they have to move away from newsprint and start producing in-demand paper products.

  • Brian
    June 05, 2012 - 08:08

    The ol NDP way.. throw money at everything under the assumption that money grows on trees.

  • P F Murphy
    June 05, 2012 - 07:34

    Times are hard when you have to put off meeting a provincial premier when your jet needs repairs and the mill management need this year's bonuses and the workers need to accept this year's cuts. I guess Dunderdale will be getting legislation ready to take back the forest resources if the mill closes, but this time, I hope, she don't include the mill and the responsibility for the remediating the pollution like Danny did last time.

    • Jack
      June 05, 2012 - 09:56

      P F MURPHY, at least this time, Kruger can't run to NAFTA for help as the company is Canadian based or registered, not American like Resolute Forest Products (formerly Abitibi Bowater).

  • Darrell
    June 05, 2012 - 06:44

    Lorraine Micheal said "the government should be willing to put money on the table to help bring about a deal" well I say enough corporate bail outs if they can't do it on there own stop wasting my tax dollars.

    • RP
      June 05, 2012 - 07:41

      No more bailouts for large corporations!

    • Poor Kruger
      June 05, 2012 - 08:18

      I agree with Darrell. It is unbelievable that a company can have such a hold on my tax dollars. I think its time for governemnt to understand that we "the people" who voted them into power do not want them to be invovled in private business. This crying by Kruger will not end , let them find there own way to make more profits, not on my BACK!

    • Eli
      June 05, 2012 - 08:38

      I agree. Don't you get the feeling all this is just posturing before Kruger closes up shop? Corner Brook won't go under any more than Stephenville or Grand Falls.

    • David
      June 05, 2012 - 08:45

      Government money is not being requested to "bail out" Kruger from incompetence or mismangement. Despite the fact this industry has been on death's door for over a decade, Kruger hasn't complained in public or whined about it. The assistance is being offered by government to compensate Kruger for their workers stupidity and incredibly ill-advised greed. So can the 'bailout' BS. This is a worker subsidy. Blame the eejots.

    • Rob
      June 05, 2012 - 09:37

      No more tax dollards to inside workers inthe mill, they always got the better of any deal and did less work, in great working conditions same as the inside workers in Grand Falls

    • Buck
      June 05, 2012 - 16:24

      Where are all you watchdogs of the taxpayers dollar when millions are given to Marble mountain every yr...and anyone who thinks working conditions inside a paper mill are great must never have worked inside one.