Nfld. & Labrador

Stay home, AbitibiBowater tells woods workers

AbitibiBowater has sent its central Newfoundland forest workers home, in a move that some workers see as retaliation against a government expropriation of company assets.

AbitibiBowater has sent its central Newfoundland forest workers home, in a move that some workers see as retaliation against a government expropriation of company assets.

The Newfoundland and Labrador legislature last week passed a bill to strip AbitibiBowater of its timber and water resources, in the wake of the company's decision to shut down its newsprint mill in Grand Falls-Windsor.

"That's unfortunate they're playing that kind of games with people caught in the middle there," said Owen Burt, one of scores of woods workers who were told Saturday to stay home.

AbitibiBowater decided earlier this month to close its Grand Falls-Windsor mill no later than March 28. The closure means job losses for about 450 workers in the mill itself, as well as another 300 forest workers, truckers and stevedores.

This weekend, truckers were also told to stay home, but were later ordered back to work. The weekend orders came soon after Abitibi president David Paterson warned Premier Danny Williams the company would sue over what it labels an illegal move by the legislature.

Trucker Craig Sheppard has no doubt the company's decision to shut down its forest operations is related to Paterson's threat.

"I really think it's got a lot to with it. But I'm glad that they did do that, at least when this company leaves, they should leave with nothing," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned, the woods sector … [is] always forgotten about. We always have been.  We're the backbone of this operation, and we're not getting nothing," he said.

Burt, a heavy-equipment operator with 29 years of experience with the company, said he was upset that word came verbally, without any written notice in advance.

The Grand Falls-Windsor mill began producing newsprint in 1909.