New Brunswick

Ex-Fraser Papers workers seek pension help

Retired Fraser Papers workers are hoping an old loan from the provincial government could help them save some of their retirement benefits.

Provincial government secured $38M in preferred shares after bankruptcy

Retired Fraser Papers workers are hoping an old loan from the provincial government could help them salvage some of their retirement benefits.

The New Brunswick government loaned Fraser Papers more than $35 million in June 2008 to save mills in Edmundston, Plaster Rock and Juniper, but a year later, the company was bankrupt.

Retired workers saw their pensions slashed by one-third but the provincial government’s money wasn’t lost. Instead, the money was converted into preferred shares, an investment the provincial government still holds in the new, restructured company, Twin Rivers.

The workers are trying to find out if the Twin Rivers forest company is making money.

The retirees, such as Conrad Pelletier, say any profit the provincial government makes on its shares should be used to top up their pensions.

"The New Brunswick government didn't lose that $35 million. So we say, they don't lose anything, they're going to make money on it? They should transfer it to us on the pension plan," Pelletier said.

But the provincial government has yet to receive a dividend on its shares in Twin Rivers.

Bruce MacFarlane, a spokesperson for the Department of Business New Brunswick, said the provincial government's investment is long-term so it's too early to talk about what to do with the shares.

"We are just going to continue to monitor the situation, and let the shares sit where they are, and see how this file develops over the years," he said.

Pelletier and other workers say they haven't been able to get any information on whether Twin Rivers is making money and whether it should be paying a dividend by now.

Earlier this week, Business New Brunswick confirmed that two in 10 of the department's loans ended in bankruptcy or closure.

The department handed out roughly $653 million in repayable loans, loan guarantees, equity investments and other forms of grants to companies between 2005 and 2011.

Of that, about $151 million was loaned or given to companies that are now listed as out of business or bankrupt.