Nfld. & Labrador

Millwrights reject final Kruger offer

One of the unions at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper has turned down a final offer that the company says must be passed to ensure the troubled mill's survival.
Kruger Inc. has warned unionized employees that Corner Brook Pulp and Paper cannot be refinanced without their ratification of a new cost-cutting contract. (CBC)

One of the unions at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper has defied a plea from Kruger Inc. and turned down a final offer that the company says must be passed to ensure the troubled mill's survival.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents a minority of unionized employees at the newsprint mill, said in a statement on Wednesday evening that it could not accept the offer.

"This was a very difficult decision for everyone," local president Ross Edison said.

"The level of concessions and changes to the pension and contract language proved to be unacceptable."

Most of the unionized workers at Corner Brook Pulp and Paper are represented by the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union, which has until Friday to respond to Kruger's final offer, which includes demands for unspecified wage cuts and other concessions.

By contrast, the IAMAW represents just a few dozen employees. As skilled trades workers, their job prospects are considerably better than the papermakers and loggers who also work for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper.

Edison said "the majority of tradesmen" with the local voted to turn down the company's proposal, although it did not disclose the percentage of the vote.

"This decision is neither a vote against maintaining the mill nor does it show a lack of support to pensioners or local businesses. Our position is to negotiate a fair contract with the company to ensure the long term viability and competitiveness of the mill," the statement said.

Chairman Joseph Kruger wrote to workers earlier this week, urging them to vote for the offer that he said was unfortunate but necessary for the mill's survival.

"Essentially, the fate of the mill is now in your hands," Kruger wrote in a two-page employee letter.

CEP officials have urged their members to accept the final offer.

Edison countered Kruger's argument that the mill cannot survive without union ratification of the offer.

"The larger issue facing the mill's viability is a need for an infusion of capital money in the mill which is where the government's assistance will be most needed," the statement said.

"This will undoubtedly lead to lower labour costs and increased efficiency."