Although the Manitoba Labour Board put an end this week to the employee lockout at Tembec’s Pine Falls newsprint mill, employees will not be returning to work. Tembec announced in December that the mill is up for sale, and will remain idle until it is sold.
The Winnipeg Free Press reported January15 that three potential buyers for the mill have emerged, but no solid offers have yet been made.
A former Tembec vice-president, J.P. Bradette, spoke to the mill's employees and the local chamber of commerce about his interest in purchasing the business. As well, Tembec employees have expressed an interest in buying the mill, as has the Sagkeeng First Nation, according to the Free Press.
On Jan. 13, the Manitoba Labour Board agreed to a union request to appoint an arbitrator to settle a contract between Tembec and the United Steelworkers union. The board's decision ended a four-and-a-half-month lockout involving more than 250 employees. The Free Press reports that the decision will likely prompt the company to issue layoff notices, which will let workers apply for employment insurance benefits.
The mill has been idled since September 1, 2009. In December, Tembec announced it was looking for a buyer. At that time, John Valley, executive vice-president, business development and corporate affairs, said: “It is our hope to find a new owner for the site and we are prepared to work with all parties to facilitate a transaction. However, if the sales process is not successful or if it is not completed in a timely manner, we will consider other options, including a permanent closure of the facility.”