Unifor 'encouraged by progress' on Northern Pulp report
July 5, 2019 – Unifor, the union representing workers at Nova Scotia's Northern Pulp, says it is pleased to see that the mill is making progress on the additional information required by the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment in order to achieve approval to build an effluent plant.
"We are encouraged by the progress, but to be clear this is an extremely challenging, anxious and frustrating time for our members who are worried about their jobs and their community," says Lana Payne, Unifor Atlantic regional director, in a release.
Payne and Unifor leaders from Local 440 received an update from company officials on Wednesday, followed by an all-member town hall at the mill on Thursday about the status of the Northern Pulp's response to the Department of Environment's Focus Report, which was requested by the provincial government after Paper Excellence, Northern Pulp's parent company, submitted its environmental assessment application.
According to union representatives, the loss of the pulp mill will have far-reaching implications for the entire forestry sector including the 240 unionized workers at the mill and thousands of others in the sector across the province.
Don MacKenzie, president of Unifor Local 440, says it is critical the company get the work done as quickly as possible and also show the government they are doing everything they can to meet the requests from the Department of Environment.
"It is reassuring to see the company continuing to invest in the mill, including during the recent maintenance shutdown. It's also reassuring to see Premier Stephen McNeil's recent commitment to look at all possibilities with respect to the future of the mill. The company needs to finish the work, do it well and put the ball back into the government's court," says MacKenzie.
In an article published Jul. 4, Premier McNeil told the CBC that he's hopeful there will still be a resolution to the situation. "If [Northern Pulp] can provide something that makes sense, that they can present to the community, that they can present to government that gets a permit, then I believe I have a responsibility to look at all possibilities as the premier," he said.
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Payne says there has always been a solution that resulted in a new treatment facility that respects the local First Nations and that also ensures environmental standards are met and exceeded.
"It has really been about having the time to get it all done and meet the deadline imposed by the government," Payne says. "The dilemma for the premier and his government is whether they will stand by and allow an economic crisis to ensue when there is a sincere commitment to do what needs doing to create a path forward that protects the environment and good jobs in the forestry sector of Nova Scotia."
Northern Pulp's new plan has been criticized by environmental and fisheries groups in Nova Scotia such as Friends of the Northumberland Strait, who say it remains a threat not only to the environment, but also the livelihoods of the local fishermen. A Change.org petition opposing the potential new plant currently stands at nearly 25,000 signatures.
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