New Brunswick

Miramichi mill protest ends after Arbec gets court order

Several dozen workers protested outside the Arbec mill in Miramichi on Monday, angry the company has hired a Quebec contractor to do a regular maintenance shutdown at the mill.

Workers angry maintenance shutdown work being handled by Quebec contractor

Several dozen workers protested outside the Arbec mill in Miramichi on Monday, angry the company has hired a Quebec contractor to do a regular maintenance shutdown at the mill.

The demonstration ended late in the afternoon, after Arbec Forest Products Inc. obtained a court injunction ordering the protesters to leave.

No one from Arbec was available for comment.

A member of the Alward government says he plans to ask if there's a way to change a labour-mobility agreement between New Brunswick and Quebec.

Southwest Miramichi MLA Jake Stewart says the 2008 deal signed by the previous government, which allows companies in New Brunswick or Quebec to hire contractors from the other province, appears to be the issue.

"If we've improved our chances of working in Quebec, I don't think that's a bad thing, but whatever's happening, it's not helping our people get on the shutdown here," said Stewart, who was at the protest to support the local workers.

"I came here today because some constituents asked me if I would support them and I said. 'Yes,'" he told CBC News.

"People are just upset. They want a chance at the shutdown, you know, and they can't get in there, and they asked me to support them and I did."

Stewart said he accepts Arbec was allowed to go with a non-New Brunswick company for the maintenance work, but says people in Miramichi are hurting and the loss of this contract doesn't help.

"Locals have no work here," said millwright Billy Walls, who was among the protesters.

"We have the skills to do it, and they're bringing in Quebeckers. Nothing against Quebeckers, but we have to look after our own," he said.

Last year, the Alward government gave Arbec Forest Products Inc., of Quebec, $15.3 million to help the mill reopen after being closed for almost six years.

At that price, Liberal MLA Bill Fraser says the company should be required to hire locally.

"There needs to be some type of stipulation, or some understanding, that they need to provide jobs and be good corporate citizens to people in Miramichi, or at least from New Brunswick," Fraser said.

Any such stipulation, however, could violate the 2008 agreement.

Arbec purchased the mill, formerly owned by Weyerhaeuser, in January 2012 for $31 million.

Weyerhaeuser had shut down operations in February 2007, putting 150 people out of work. Officials had blamed a decreased demand for the mill's product — oriented strand board.