Four out of five unionized groups at the Corner Brook Pulp and Paper mill in Newfoundland have ratified the plant’s “final” offer.
The results of the final vote are unknown, but a majority of the more than 300 workers at the Kruger Inc.-owned facility approved the deal, saving the facility from being closed.
The four Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP) locals accepting the offer will operate under the new agreement immediately, Corner Brook CEO Joseph Kruger said in a letter to the workers.
The agreement is “encouraging,” according to Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who flew to Corner Brook for the vote.
"Much work remains to be done but certainly this vote shows the commitment of the [union] workers to securing the mill's future," Dunderdale said in a release.
The fifth group — who rejected the offer — is also a CEP local and represents 17 electricians at the plant. The local has indicated it will try to return to the bargaining table.
Earlier in the week, Kruger issued a letter to employees indicating that the plant would close should this deal be rejected.
"Essentially, the fate of the mill is now in your hands," Kruger wrote, adding that the mill has been defaulting on loan agreements since 2009.
The new contract contains an unspecified wage cut, which Kruger indicated was necessary to keep the mill running.
Kruger is also asking employees to accept a plan that would give Corner Brook an additional five years to pay back millions of dollars owed to the employee pension plan. Employees will vote on the plan by Aug. 22.
On June 22, a few dozen machinists and skilled trades workers — represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) — also rejected the company’s final offer. The union said its members would be forced to look for employment elsewhere in North America had they accepted the agreement.
Kruger has indicated it will consider continuing negotiations with IAM.
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is the last of three newsprint mills in Newfoundland and Labrador.
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