An agreement in principle that could become the pattern agreement for the pulp and paper industry in Eastern Canada has been announced by Unifor and Resolute Forest Products Inc. The tentative agreement must be submitted to the members of the union for ratification, which is expected to be completed by the end of the month. The agreement provides for the collective agreement to be renewed for four years.
“This agreement allows Resolute to continue productivity improvements and also to offer our employees good working conditions in several regions of Quebec and Ontario," said Resolute’s president and CEO, Richard Garneau.
According to Resolute, the agreement in principle provides for wage increases in each of the four years and continues the partnership with the union on efficiency and employee safety. It applies to eleven Resolute Forest Products establishments, which account for more than 41% of Resolute's total pulp and paper capacity.
This four-year contract is the culmination of more than two weeks of intensive bargaining in Montreal. “We are pleased with this outcome. In the past, our members have helped keep this company afloat, and now that the economic context has improved, it was time for them to make up some lost ground and ensure the security of their jobs. And that's what we were able to obtain," stated Unifor national president Jerry Dias.
These negotiations with Resolute will help establish a pattern agreement for approximately 10,000 Unifor members working in more than 40 plants across the pulp and paper sector in the eastern part of Canada. “This bargaining had to include two things: no concessions and economic gains in recognition of the sacrifices our members made in the past. We were able to achieve both," said Mike Lambert, Unifor director of forestry.
The master agreement covers eleven of Resolute's Canadian pulp and paper mills. In Quebec, it applies to: Amos, Baie-Comeau, Dolbeau, Gatineau, Kénogami, Laurentide and Saint-Félicien. It also covers the mills in Fort Frances (now closed), Iroquois Falls, Thorold and Thunder Bay, in Ontario.
The collective agreement covers approximately 2,000 employees at these sites represented by Unifor.
The last time Unifor and Resolute negotiated an agreement was in 2010, at the height of the economic crisis, and the parties were negotiating in a context where Resolute (at the time AbitibiBowater) was under the protection of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). The workers were forced to make numerous concessions in order to maintain jobs and save their defined benefit pension plan, said Unifor.
Today, with the major gains won in this agreement, the union feels the outlook for the future is brighter. “The pulp and paper industry is not dead. It is undergoing a profound change, and we have to make sure that it can renew itself by developing new products and markets," commented Renaud Gagné, assistant to the Quebec director.
The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) merged in 2013 to become Unifor. Unifor is the largest union of workers in the country's pulp and paper sector.