Nfld. & Labrador

Family logging business 'blindsided' by loss of Kruger contract

Two dozen loggers on the province's west coast are being laid off, and one company says it faces bankruptcy.

24 jobs eliminated as paper company looks to save money, says tariffs not to blame

Arthur Fowlow Ltd. says it may have to auction off its equipment after losing the Kruger contract. (Submitted)

A South Brook logging company says its 44-year business relationship with the Corner Brook paper mill came to an end in a five-minute conversation last week, and now the company faces bankruptcy.

Sterling Fowlow, who took over Arthur Fowlow Ltd. from his father, said he was called into a meeting with executives from Kruger — the parent company of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.

Sitting across the table, he said, was the woodland manager for Kruger's operations in Newfoundland and Labrador who told him, 'You're done.'

Fowlow told the Corner Brook Morning Show that he asked why their contract was being cut, but couldn't get an answer. 

"He just blindsided me," Fowlow said. "Left me speechless, took every bit of life out of me."

He and his employees were devastated by the news.

"They were floored," he said.

In a statement Wednesday, Kruger said the decision will affect 24 jobs.

"This decision is not in any way linked to the countervailing and anti-dumping duties that the U.S. wants to impose on Canadian newsprint," the company said. 

"Rather, it is the result of an ongoing strategic plan to reduce costs and improve efficiency across all operations and it is one of several initiatives that have been implemented to offset increasing market pressures worldwide."

Union leader 'stomach sick'

A union leader who represents the west coast loggers said the layoffs will affect junior employees, most of whom live in small outport communities.

"It's a hard go of it," said Lindy Vincent, president of Unifor Local 60-N, whose phone has been ringing constantly since the news broke.

"It makes me stomach sick, actually."

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper is laying off contract workers in face of "increasing market pressures worldwide." (CBC)

​Vincent said Fowlow workers will have the right to bump employees of other companies cutting wood for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper — if there is work — but the mill has a stockpile of wood.

They also have recall rights for two years, but he said the men might not be able to hang on for that long.

Fowlow said Kruger has four logging contractors and they all expected to take some losses.

"We thought it was going to be everybody lose a certain percentage of their cut and between all of us we'd get through it, but nope."

Vincent said he agrees the cuts should have been spread out among all the logging contractors but, "We got no say in what the company decides."

Bankruptcy looming

When asked about the future of his family business, Fowlow gave a frank answer.

"Bankruptcy. That's what that means for me. I got all fairly new machines and I do not have them all paid for and if I can't cut any wood, I cannot pay for them. Simple math."

The company says it was told by a manager with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper that their services were no longer needed after 44 years of supplying the mill. (Submitted)

Folow was preparing his machinery to head out for a new harvest when he was called in for the meeting with Kruger.

He's continued that work since, but now he's not sure what he is preparing them for — but there's a good chance it's for auction.

"It's not what I wanted, but that don't make no difference no more," he said. "That's not an easy job to have to do, after something you've been at all your life."

With files from Corner Brook Morning Show