Nfld. & Labrador

Workers told they'll get no severance from AbitibiBowater

Former mill workers in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., say they had their worst fears confirmed Friday when AbitibiBowater officials said the pulp and paper company won't be issuing any severance cheques now, and maybe never.

Former mill workers in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., say they had their worst fears confirmed Friday when AbitibiBowater officials said the pulp and paper company won't be issuing any severance cheques now, and maybe never.

Local union officials who represent workers at the paper mill said they were told they were not going to receive the severance they were expecting after the mill closed the end of March. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States on Thursday and stopped all payments worldwide.

"Put it in all in nutshell, what they're telling me [is] that I'm not going to get paid severance. If I want to get severance, I'll have to take it to court and get in the lineup," said former worker Ernie Hollett.

Hollett said the provincial government has to step in and help since the province will make money from the power and land it expropriated from the company. Some of that money should be used to help make up for the lost severance pay, Hollett said.

The Newfoundland and Labrador legislature passed a bill in December to expropriate AbitibiBowater's hydro and timber assets in the province after the company decided to stop operating its mill in Grand Falls-Windsor.

The workers were expecting severance cheques of $40,000 to $100,000.

Robert Payne, a stevedore in Botwood, was expecting a severance check of about $50,000.

"I'm in the lineup — I guess as an unsecured creditor," he said.

Dennis Woolridge, who was a mechanic with Abitibi, was expecting a severance cheque of $70,000.

"I was hoping to get a severance so it would bridge my pension so I would go and retire. Now it looks like I'm going to have to go to work," he said.