Kruger 'very, very concerned' about Corner Brook future
'There is a real possibility that this mill may close,' Dunderdale says
The head of the company that owns Corner Brook Pulp and Paper finished a sombre meeting with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale Monday evening with a grim warning about the mill's future.
"I'm leaving St. John's. I'm very concerned about the mill," Kruger Inc. chairman Joseph Kruger told reporters as he concluded a meeting at Confederation Building.
"I'm very, very concerned."
After the meeting, Dunderdale suggested the fate of the operation — the only newsprint mill still operating in Newfoundland and Labrador — may depend on what the company can negotiate with its unionized workers.
"There is a real possibility that this mill may close," Dunderdale said. "It's a very sensitive time."
Montreal-based Kruger Inc. has been reviewing the viability of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper since unionized workers narrowly rejected a plan to restructure the company's unfunded pension liabilities.
"We'll have to wait and see what happens in Corner Brook around the negotiations, whether the union and the company are able to put together a sustainable plan for the future," she said.
Dunderdale said she expected there would be a second vote on the pension restructuring plan.
Once those issues are resolved, she said, the government is committed to stepping in to ensure that the mill is sustainable.
Dunderdale said matters need to be resolved fairly quickly.
"Time is of the essence here," she told reporters.
But NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said government can play a more active role in resolving a dispute over pensions between Kruger and the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers union.
"The government just can't stand back," said Michael, who added that while contract matters need to be handled solely by Kruger and the union, "when it comes to this pension issue, I think all three parties have to be at the table."