Pulp and Paper Canada

Employee lockout shuts down Pine Falls newsprint mill

September 1, 2009  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Tembec has locked out employees at its Pine Falls, Man., newsprint mill following a failure to reach a new col…

Tembec has locked out employees at its Pine Falls, Man., newsprint mill following a failure to reach a new collective agreement. The company says site management and mill employees worked together to ensure that the mill was shut down in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
According to Tembec, it was seeking changes in the collective agreement that would have resulted in improvement in the site’s cost competitiveness necessary to allow it to meet challenges created by the profound structural change in the demand for newsprint. Tembec indicated that it had met with both local and regional representatives of the United Steelworkers (“USW”) and the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union earlier in August and again in late August, in the presence of a Ministry of Labour conciliator. The meetings in late August were with a larger group that included two senior USW representatives.

A Tembec news release states, “the USW team appeared to lack the sense of urgency to seriously engage in negotiating.”
Chris Black, executive vice-president and president of the paper group for Tembec, says the newsprint industry is in the most challenging period it has ever faced. “While current pricing levels and the higher valued Canadian dollar have aggravated this situation, the principal and critical issue is the dramatic oversupply of newsprint relative to current and foreseen demand,” he says. “Simply put, there will be additional mill closures and sites must be cost competitive in order to survive.”
“Tembec has an overall strategy for improving the competitive position of Pine Falls, a critical element of which is to achieve an immediate and significant reduction in labour cost per tonne produced. However, it appears that serious negotiation on the critical cost issues will not be allowed to occur,” concludes Black.
The company indicated that it is prepared to return to the bargaining table.


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